Director: Brad Peyton
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Alexandra Daddario, Carla Gugino and Paul Giamatti
Running Time: 114 minutes
Release Date: May 29th
You want the best for The Rock. In a movie landscape where actors play comic book characters, he’s an actor who is a comic book character of absurd muscles and immaculate pearly whites. It’s fair to say that’s he’s been in his fair share of stinkers, but in his defence, he’s usually been the best thing in them and, on occasion, has been the best thing in a good movie. His casting has never really utilised him just right, perhaps most egregious in last year’s Hercules which had him don a daft wig and play the Greek demigod (sort of). But The Rock is no demigod, he’s is a God. So pitting him against Mother Nature finally seemed like a fair fight. His Atlas-like shoulders were built to carry the earth, but could he stop it from ripping apart?
San Andreas aims to answer that question in a fun, messy homage to disaster movies of years gone by. The past ten years, destruction of major metropolitan cities has been par for the course with blockbusters, with alien or gamma-infused Übermensch doing the trashing with little care for civilians around them. Seeing real (as real as The Rock could be considered) people actively caring for their fellow human is a nice respite. Johnson plays Ray Gaines, a chief on the Los Angeles Fire Department rescue team. He’s a bit of a rogue — we know this because his captain basically tells him as much because he goes through replacement helicopters like Johnson goes through baby oil in the Fast franchise. After an earthquake at the Hoover Dam levels it, it becomes evident — thanks to the shouty scientific ramblings of Paul Giamatti — that the entire San Andreas Fault is going off, leaving Gaines to try and rescue his soon-to-be ex-wife, Emma (Carla Cugino), in L.A. and daughter, Blake (True Detective‘s Alexndra Daddario), in San Francisco.
The set up is simple, its destination already pre-determined but it’s an enjoyable trip there. It rides mostly on the coattails of Johnson’s charm and some rather impressive directing from Brad Peyton. All the action is shot in daytime so there’s a clarity to the tension, particularly in a clever tracking shot through a crumbling L.A. high rise. Its script is laden with every cliché you could imagine but it’s economic in its delivery and there’s the occasional clever line, one of which is a contender for best use of an F-bomb in a 12a movie. The rest of the cast are up suitably up for the high scale camp: Ioan Gruffudd is perfectly smarmy as new boyfriend of Emma, who makes the incredibly douchey claim that he never had kids because he was raising skyscrapers; Kylie Minogue air drops in for a scene to throw seismic levels of shade; Daddario flips the damsel in distress role onto Hugo Johnstone-Burt’s Ben, a bumbling Brit who baulks in awe of her vast knowledge emergency security channels and where fire departments hide the medical packs.
Make no mistake, it’s all very dumb. The plot is dumb. The science is dumb. The cast is dumb. But in a world where summer movies can take themselves all too seriously, sometimes dumb fun is just the tonic.