“Gay Samoan bodyguard” is a pretty tough role to tackle with grace early into an acting career, but Johnson was the best thing about F. Gary Gray’s loud, lukewarm sequel to Get Shorty. Having fun with his tough-guy image without resorting to offensive stereotypes, The Rock stood out in a film with a lot of star power.
Fun fact: The Rundown is sorta great! You’ve probably seen it on cable once or twice or 18 times, but have you ever appreciated the nuance in Young Rock’s performance, as a bounty hunter named Beck? Compared to Seann William Scott in this movie, Johnson reaches Shakespearean heights.
Richard Kelly’s long-awaited follow-up to Donnie Darko is an absolute mess, but as the amnesia-stricken Boxer Santaros, Johnson is hardly its biggest problem. Attempting to find some soul in sci-fi sensationalism, The Rock was the most riveting aspect of an otherwise forgettable film.
In one of Michael Bay’s few non-Transformers films of the decade, Johnson plays Paul Doyle, a cocaine addict who is coerced into a kidnapping and extortion plot by a gang of muscle-headed knuckleheads. Like too many of The Rock’s films, Pain & Gain is uneven, but the actor shines in a complicated role that should have been given more room to breathe.
Johnson’s scene lasted all of seven seconds or so, but it was enough to make an impact on us viewers. We’ve been conditioned to view The Rock as an action star, but his cameo in this 2010 Tyler Perry offering introduced him as a possible love interest opposite Janet Jackson’s newly widowed Patricia. His small yet memorable contribution to WDIGMT definitely left us wondering what a Dwayne Johnson romantic dramedy would look like… and how soon we can find out.
A year before his big breakthrough in The Mummy Returns, The Rock flexed his acting chops on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. He donned a prosthetic forehead to play a competitor in a galactic fighting match called Tsunkatse, where he was pitted against Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan). He got to say cool/nerdy things like, “You’re no bigger than a Tarkanian field mouse,” and when Seven told him, after several kicks to his face, “I have no desire to inflict further damage,” he replied with, “I’m afraid I can’t say the same,” and took her out. Game over.