Some of you may be wondering, what exactly WWE Studios is? Let's get that one out of the way before we proceed. WWE Studios is a movie production company mainly used to produce films featuring its WWE talent. But unbeknownst to many, sometimes WWE Studios will work in conjunction with other production companies and team up to ultimately make it cheaper for both parties.
Movies from WWE Studios do have a negative stigma at times when movies like The Chaperone, Knucklehead and Inside Out come to mind. Movies that have cheesy storylines where the wrestler is the focal point, but has no chance to succeed regardless of how good their acting is. But in reality, not all movies from WWE Studios are like that. There are instances where they team up with other distributions and the featured wrestler plays a very minor role, and they let actual actors do the acting. The movie Oculus didn't even feature a wrestler at all. It was an extremely low budget film that did quite well.
When people think of wrestlers that have made it in Hollywood, the first name that comes to mind is The Rock. His name is synonymous with wrestling and major box office draws. Some of his movies will obviously be at the top of this list, but it tends to fly under the radar that the movies that kick tarted his acting career were the one's involved with WWE Studios.
Let's take a look at the top 10 grossing films from WWE Studios.
10 The Condemned ($8,642,858)
The Condemned came out in 2007 and starred Stone Cold Steve Austin. WWE promoted the heck out of this movie. They would take every opportunity on Raw to give it a shameless plug, even more so than the current WWE Network *$9.99* campaign. They even had a hilarious promo with Santino Marella where he interrupted Lilian Garcia and sang his rendition of Amy Winehouse's Rehab song: "They tried to make me watch The Condemned, I say NO NO NO!"
Unlike the WWE Network, The Condemned wasn't a total flop. But considering the amount of time and energy WWE put into promoting it, the numbers were certainly disappointing.
It's a bit surprising because the movie involved a legitimate star in Austin, and it did have a gruesome yet unique plot that should have garnered interest from the targeted 18-34 year old demographic. Jack Conrad (Austin) was awaiting execution in a Salvadoran prison but is bought by a TV producer with nine other prisoners on death row. Each prisoner was offered a chance at freedom if they participated in a "fight to the death" which would be illegally broadcasted on the internet. Unfeasible? Sure, but what can't you find on the internet these days?
9 12 Rounds ($17,280,326)
It's a shame that WWE didn't spend half as much time promoting this movie as they did for The Condemned because it was actually an enjoyable flick. In a nutshell, Cena plays an officer named Danny Fisher who helps the FBI capture an arms dealer named Miles Jackson. Jackson's girlfriend Erica ends up getting killed during a showdown and he gets taken away to prison. Jackson escapes from prison (obviously) and swears revenge on Fisher. Abiding by the "eye for an eye" motto, Jackson kidnaps Fisher's girlfriend Molly. He offers a 12 round challenge to Fisher, and if he can manage to complete all 12 rounds, he promises to release her.
Even though the movie is kind of a rip off of Die Hard, some of the rounds are actually pretty cool, while the special effects and fight scenes are awesome. Cena plays the hero role very well, as it's hard to imagine him playing any type of villain. Men will enjoy watching him complete these seemingly impossible missions and their girlfriends will enjoy seeing the hunky Cena prance around in a T-shirt that's two sizes too small (I might be speaking from experience here).
8 Dead Man Down ($18,074,539)
There's not much to say about this dreadful two hour affair. The pace was incredibly and the twists in the plot just seemed to leave everyone confused. The film received mostly bad reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (38%) and Metacritic (39/100). The solid cast (featuring Colin Farrell) is what kept it somewhat watchable.
It is, however, our first example of a film partially produced by WWE Studios that did not have a WWE superstar in a feature role, as Wade Barrett plays a considerably minor role as Kilroy. The plot was similar to 12 Rounds in the sense that Victor (Colin Farrell) was trying to avenge the murder of his wife and daughter, and Alphonse (Terrence Howard) was the desired target. They did flip the switch, as it was the protagonist seeking revenge in this one. The difference was that 12 Rounds catered to its targeted demographic, keeping things simple and sticking to the basics, while Dead Man Down tried to add too many unnecessary twists and turns.
7 See No Evil ($18,564,467)
In theory, it made sense for Kane to play a sick, sadistic freak that didn't utter a single word, because his character had similar qualities in the WWE for the majority of his career (this corporate Kane shtick just isn't doing it for me).
The plot was very simple, as it should have been. When horror movies have a storyline that's more complicated than Inception, it tends to rub people the wrong way. People want to satisfy their guilty pleasures when they go see a horror flick, not think too much. Officer Frank Williams led a group of delinquents to an abandoned hotel. Their job is to clean and revamp it as part of their community service, and more importantly, it was a chance for them to reduce their prison sentence. Little do they know, Kane is hiding out in the broken down hotel and ready to pick them off, one by one.
While the film was straight forward and had its moments, it really wasn't scary, which is kind of a necessity when making a horror movie. It was so low budget that the murder scenes were kind of pathetic and at times funny. The exception being Kane's sixth kill. It had a bit of Cujo feeling to it when the dog was licking up the blood and then proceeded pounce.
6 The Marine ($22,165,608)
At the 2008 WWE Hall of Fame Inductions, The Rock made a joke that Iraqi soldiers were actually being tortured by being tied up and forced to watch copies of The Marine (ZING!). It would appear that the critics agree with The Great One, as they loathed The Marine. But you can probably see a pattern so far. Almost all of the movies by WWE Studios get rotten reviews. The movies aren't masterpieces, but the critics aren't being entirely objective either as a lot of the criticism is not merited. The Marine wasn't great, but it wasn't as horrendous as they made it seem.
Cena plays John Triton, a marine that got discharged for disobeying commands so he could save his friends (sounds like good ol' Cena so far). When he gets home, his wife (Kate) decides that they're in need of a vacation. There's then a showdown at a gas station between a group of diamond thieves and police officers, as well as John and Kate. The officers end up getting shot, Kate ends up getting kidnapped, and then it's on!
There was one aspect that didn't make too much sense. The whole kidnapping seemed questionable as there was no apparent reason for it, whereas in 12 Rounds, there was a clear motive.
5 Oculus ($44,030,246)
Oculus was arguably the most successful film from WWE Studios for a variety of reasons. For one, it was met with mostly positive reviews, which is a rare feat for their movies. It was also highly profitable as the budget was a measly $5 million! It was also a rare movie from WWE Studios that didn't feature a single WWE talent.
The majority of the film is told by flashbacks to 11 years prior, while at the end it's told in the present time. The plotline revolves around a haunted mirror (which was actually pretty spooky). A man named Alan Russell moves into his new house with his wife, Marie. Alan decides to buy this cool looking mirror to spruce up his new office. Obviously, the mirror is evil and sparks hallucinations from both Alan and Marie. They start off pretty minor, but then escalate to insane levels, leaving their kids fending for their lives.
4 Walking Tall ($57,223,890)
Now this is the definition of a "feel good" movie. The Rock plays Chris Vaughn, a Special Forces sergeant. Vaughn surprises his family by returning home and suddenly realizes his small town has become crooked, as Jay Hamilton and his group of drug pushing thugs have taken over. Hamilton owns a corrupt casino where nobody wins, but accounts for most of the town's revenue. After getting savagely beat up at the casino while sticking up for his friends, Vaughn takes on the entire police force, Hamilton's thugs (with a 2x4 to boot), and Hamilton himself, and proceeds to run the entire town with Johnny Knoxville. Highly unfeasible? Yes, but also highly enjoyable. He even drops a "Rock Bottom" in the casino.
The critics consensus on Rotten Tomatoes was: "The Rock makes a competent hero, but the movie is content to let a 2x4 do all the talking." Who cares though? Sometimes simplicity is the best option. Take the show Baywatch for example, as the show was content in letting pretty lifeguards in bathing suits do all the talking, yet it went on for more than a decade.
3 The Call ($68,572,378)
Does anyone else feel that whenever Halle Berry stars in a film, there's pressure that to like it? Don't get me wrong, she's a magnificent actress and her performance is what kept this atrocity somewhat watchable, but the movie really wasn't enjoyable. There's only so much drama that can be taken from scenes that are happening over the phone, which is precisely what happened in this flick.
Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) plays a veteran 9-1-1 operator and gets a call from a girl that is about to be killed. Turner offers her poor advice, the phone gets disconnected and when she calls the girl back, and pleads with the murderer, he responds with: "it's already done." Jordan decides that this is just way too much for her and she cannot work the phone anymore. A second killing transpires and it happens to be the same guy that committed the first murder, and again he utters the words "it's already done." Oh the humanity...
We'll spare you the rest of the details, as it was just a struggle to get into this one. Maybe check it out if you're a big David Otunga fan, as he played a minor role as office Jake Devans.
2 The Rundown ($80,916,492)
The Rundown just may have been the movie that transitioned The Rock from a wrestler to a legitimate movie star. Finally, movie critics and wrestling fans were on the same page, as the movie was unanimously well received by the public.
The Rock simply goes by the name Beck in this one and works for a man named Walker as a bounty hunter. His mission was to head to El Dorado and capture Travis, who was played by the always hilarious Sean William Scott. It's a constant struggle as The Rock is trying to complete the mission but Scott is constantly trying to escape, so the two spend the majority of the movie trying outwit each other. One scene in particular involved both humor and amazing action. Travis convinces a foreign group called "The Rebels" that Beck has been sent there to kill them. He tells Beck to look them in the eyes out of respect, but he was tricking him as the one thing The Rebels hated was when people made eye contact. This led to an awesome fight scene until Mariana (The Rebel leader) comes in and straightens out the mess. Ultimately, The Rock and Scott end up teaming up in order to get themselves out of a jam.
1 The Scorpion King ($165,333,180)
The Scorpion King was also the King of the box office for WWE Studios. If The Rundown was the flick that officially transitioned The Rock from wrestler to actor, The Scorpion King is what got the ball rolling, and it certainly helped WWE Studios gain some notoriety.
The concept of the movie was decently cool as it was basically a prequel to The Mummy series. The Rock plays the role of Mathayus and was hired by King Pheron to kill Memnon's sorcerer, and he would be rewarded with twenty blood rubies. The Rock's most recent film Hercules had a very similar plotline in a sense that he had to complete an insanely dangerous mission for a really useless reward...but I digress. Mathayus first attempt at killing Memnon was thwarted as he ended up getting captured and buried up to his neck, with the hope that he'd be eaten by ants. Obviously, Mathayus escapes and you can fill in the rest of the blanks. It's a tad predictable, but still fun to watch. The movie is extremely well produced and has some tremendous battle scenes. When a movie costs $60 million to produce, it's a safe bet that it will at least be visually pleasing.
The critics weren't exactly enamored with the movie, as the reviews were average at best. But one thing that can't be disputed is how much money it made.