Five years ago, the Rock starred in Snitch, a movie that not enough people know about or talk about or have lines from it tattooed across their chest. In it, he played a character named John Matthews (what a perfect I AM A MAN name), the owner of a construction company that also shipped things on big trucks (what a perfect I AM A MAN job). His son gets set up on a drug charge as part of a low-level sting operation, so John Matthews has to navigate an extremely complicated undercover operation that will, if all things go correctly, end with his son being let out of prison and a drug cartel boss getting captured by the U.S. government.
A quick aside: Trading up from a kid who had a box of drugs mailed to him by a friend to a cartel boss who is responsible for tens of millions of dollars in drugs and also countless deaths seems like an extremely unfair arrangement to me. It’s like if you and I were at lunch and you said, “Hey, let’s trade sandwiches,” and I was like, “Cool. I’ll give you my sandwich, but you just have to give me your sandwich, and also your car, and your house, and also at least one of your children.”
I don’t want to talk about the actual movie, though. I just want to talk about the poster for it and about the posters for all of the Rock’s movies.
Here’s a billboard version of Snitch’s poster:
This is an elite Rock movie poster, because it has all seven of the things that a Rock movie poster needs to have. It has:
- A dark, stormy, brooding color tone.
- A piece of wild action happening. It’s one of those “Cool Guys Don’t Look at Explosions” situations. We need the wild action happening behind him so he can ignore it, because if we can’t see him ignoring the wild action, then how are we going to know that he’s cool and in control?
- The Rock as the only person on the poster. Because he’s the Rock.
- The Rock as the biggest part of the poster. Because he’s the Rock.
- The Rock holding something. It either has to be something that’s dangerous (he’s holding a gun on the poster for The Rundown, a big piece of lumber on the poster for Walking Tall, a bat on the poster for Be Cool, a gun on the poster for Doom, a gun on the poster for Southland Tales, a gun on the extended poster for Get Smart, two guns on the poster for Central Intelligence, a gun on the poster for Faster, and a big gun on the poster for Rampage) or something that’s used to help save lives (the only thing that fits here right now is the torpedo buoy he’s holding on the poster for Baywatch). Of all of these instances, I think I was the most excited when I saw him with the big piece of lumber on the poster for Walking Tall, and I don’t think I need to point out the symbolism for you there.
- The Rock looking off to the side very sternly. It’s OK if he’s looking directly at the camera, but it’s better if he’s staring off a little to the side.
- The Rock standing in a way that accentuates one of his biceps.
The Rock has appeared on 29 different movie posters. Of those 29, none have been as perfect as the movie poster for Snitch.
1. The Mummy Returns: This one is an ensemble poster. Worse still, it only features the Rock’s head and no other parts of him, including and especially not featuring one of his biceps. Bad. (And just so we’re clear going forward: A “Bad” rating is only in reference to the other Rock movie posters. Because, by and large, a Rock movie poster is automatically better than just about nearly every other kind of movie poster. So just think on it like it’s “Bad” the way that it’s “Bad” when a straight-A student gets a 94 on a test instead of a 98.)
2. The Scorpion King: This one’s tricky. It’s an ensemble poster, and so that’s a check against it. But it’s also the only movie poster of his where we get two the Rocks on it, and so does that cancel out that it’s an ensemble poster? I don’t know. Either way, I suppose there are too many strikes against it for it to be good regardless (he’s staring directly ahead rather than off to the side; it’s hard to make out any big action in the background; the yellow and orange color makes everything too golden; etc.). Bad.
3. The Rundown: There are two from this one to choose from. There’s an ensemble version that has the Rock, Rosario Dawson, Seann William Scott, and Christopher Walken on it, and there’s a version that only has the Rock and SWS on it. That’s a good one. It’s very solid. It checks off nos. 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7 from the checklist above. The only bad part of it is that it looks cheap or poorly made, which I suppose makes sense because it was early in the Rock’s movie career and nobody knew that he was on his way toward becoming possibly the biggest movie star on the planet. Good. (An aside: Same as the movie has two posters, it also has two names. It’s known as both The Rundown and Welcome to the Jungle, which is at least a tiny bit interesting given that the Rock would several years later star in another movie called Welcome to the Jungle.) (A second aside: I will always believe that had the Rock released this movie in, say, 2017 instead of 2003, it’d have made something crazy like $900 million worldwide.)
4. Walking Tall: The first movie poster that the Rock had that featured only him. And he was holding a big stick. Good. (My favorite thing about this movie is how the Rock handles drug dealers by just hitting them with a big piece of lumber. That seems way more effective than a Just Say No campaign. Like, imagine if that was the presentation that you got while you were in elementary school. The Rock would show up to your school and talk about the dangers of dealing drugs. Then some kid would be like, “Mr. The Rock, what happens if you deal drugs? Do you go to prison?” And the Rock would be like, “No. I hit you right the fuck in the chest with this 4x4.”)
5. Be Cool: Another ensemble poster, but at least in this one he’s holding a baseball bat (which would probably feel more intimidating if he hadn’t been holding what was basically a megabat in the poster for Walking Tall). Bad.
6. Doom: (Everything about this movie is bad and terrible, so I’m just going to skip it.) (But, yes, the poster: Bad.)
7. Southland Tales: It’s another ensemble poster, but there are some good pieces here. It’s the right color palette, so that’s good. And the Rock is holding something dangerous (gun), so that’s good, too. And he’s looking off past the camera, so that’s a third good thing. But that’s where it stops. This one is probably as close to good as you can get without actually being good. Bad.
8. Gridiron Gang: What’s happening right now is I like this movie a lot and so I’m trying to talk myself into saying that, despite the criteria listed above, this is a good movie poster. (It’s the biggest version of the Rock we’ve had on a movie poster to this point! There’s some light football action in it! The Rock looks stern and intimidating but also loving!) I can’t quite get there, though. There’s no real action. He’s not holding anything. We can’t see his muscles. So on and so forth. Bad.
9. The Game Plan: The way that I know the Rock is truly undefeatable is he had a four-year stretch in his career in which he did The Game Plan (a children’s movie in which he plays a professional football player who gets bossed around by a little girl), Race to Witch Mountain (a children’s movie in which he plays a former mob getaway driver who has to help some kids fight some aliens), and Tooth Fairy (a children’s movie in which he plays a professional hockey player who becomes the actual tooth fairy), and he came out of it unscathed and still headed to genuine movie stardom. (I’m reminded of the story arc in Entourage where Vincent Chase’s career stock had plummeted and he was offered a role in Benji.) Anyway, this poster: Bad.
10. Get Smart: Somehow, the Rock is not on the movie poster for this but he is on the DVD cover, which is just about all you need know to about this movie. DVD cover: Bad
11. Race to Witch Mountain: Bad.
12. Tooth Fairy: Bad.
13. Faster: Now we’re talking. He’s holding a gun. He’s wearing a dark gray T-shirt and standing on a dark gray road with dark gray clouds behind him. You can see one of his giant anaconda arms. This is people figuring out what a Rock movie poster should look like. Good. (An aside: I’ve seen Faster at least four times. I still couldn’t tell you what it’s about. It’s one of those movies that’s so extremely basic that your brain is always just like, “Well, you clearly don’t need me for this,” and then shuts off for two hours.)
14. Fast Five: It’s an ensemble poster, which, as we’ve covered, is bad, but it’s an ensemble poster for a Fast & Furious movie, so it’s actually fine. We get a mean-looking the Rock stomping his way toward a mean-looking Vin Diesel, and this is going to sound more explicit than it actually is, but this is another one of those instances where I’m pressing each key to type this sentence with my erect penis and not any of my fingers, thank you. Great.
15. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island: This is secretly my favorite poster because the way that it’s set up—the Rock and two kids are running from a giant lizard, except the Rock is in the front and the two kids are trailing behind him—makes it looks like the Rock decided it was an every-man-for-himself kind of situation and ran off and let the kids figure shit out on their own. It breaks all of the rules we set forth earlier about what makes a good and bad the Rock movie poster, but it’s also the only movie poster where the Rock potentially lets some children get eaten by a giant iguana, which is very funny. So: Good.
16. Snitch: Great and Perfect.
17. G.I. Joe: Retaliation: The Rock gets top billing. (Good.) And he’s staring off past the camera. (Good.) And the color palette is moody and gray. (Good.) And there’s some action happening in the background. (Good.) And the Rock’s holding a gun. (Good.) But it’s an ensemble poster. (Bad.) And you can’t see any of his muscles. (Bad.) 5-2. Good.
18. Empire State: Did you see this? It was a straight-to-DVD movie that should’ve been good (the Rock plays an NYPD detective trying to chase down some heist criminals) but it just wasn’t. As such, I’m deciding right now in this very moment to strike it from the record of this particular conversation.
19. Pain & Gain: Two things: (1) This is quietly the Rock’s best movie and also Mark Wahlberg’s second-best movie. It’s brilliant. (2) The movie poster—just the Rock, Mark Wahlberg, and Anthony Mackie being big and wearing sunglasses in front of an American flag background—is surprisingly unmoving. Bad.
20. Fast & Furious 6: (Just reread the entry for Fast Five.) (It’s neat that the Rock wears fingerless gloves for the F&F movie posters.) (Except for The Fate of the Furious.) (He wears a leather vest for that one.) (A leather vest is basically just a fingerless glove for your chest, though.) (Great.)
21. Hercules: Muscles. Long hair. Weapon. Danger. Good.
22. Furious 7: You already know.
23. San Andreas: There are two main versions of this poster. There’s one where the Rock is hanging from a helicopter that is flying itself, because the fucking Rock doesn’t need anyone to fly a helicopter that he’s hanging from. And there’s one where it’s a tight shot of the Rock’s face as he’s about to fly his helicopter into the wreckage of a natural disaster to save his ex-wife and daughter. Neither of them touches on enough of the requirements to make for a good movie poster, but this movie is, at its core, the Rock vs. an Earthquake, and so each of the posters get a score of great.
24. Central Intelligence: Bad. (A fun movie, though.) (Also: It’s very interesting to me that in 2015, the Rock battled an earthquake and then in 2016 battled body dysmorphia. He really can do it all.)
25. The Fate of the Furious: You already know.
26. Baywatch: The only thing you need to know about this movie poster is that the tagline on it was, “Beaches ain’t ready.” It’s probably the second-ever-best bad-curse-word pun used for a movie poster tagline, losing out only to Pitch Perfect’s “Get pitch slapped” tagline. Good.
27. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle: Action. (Good.) Staring off past the camera. (Good.) No weapon, but the gloves are back, and they’re an acceptable substitute. (Good.) Color palette. (Good.) Muscles. (Good.) That’s enough for this one to be good.
28. Rampage: Great. Obviously.
29. Skyscraper: The poster for this movie, which opens on Friday, is a faraway shot of the Rock jumping off the end of a giant crane something like 50 feet into an on-fire skyscraper. Underneath him, his name is written above the word SKYSCRAPER. And here’s a question for you, because it’s something I’ve been thinking about since this poster was released online several months ago: Is there—at this point in his career and with the way he’s turned himself into one of the most charming and likable movie stars in the world—any word or phrase that could’ve been written on the poster in place of SKYSCRAPER that would make you not go see the movie? Because I can’t think of a single one. And even if you start plugging in bad or weird things (like if it just said “RACIST” or “TODDLER SOUP” or “FART FART” or whatever), it somehow only serves to make the movie seem more interesting. That’s how strong the Rock’s gravity is these days. (There’s fucking no way on earth I’m not watching a movie starring the Rock called Fart Fart on opening night.) I don’t know. Either way, this poster: Good.
An earlier version of this piece stated that the Rock wasn’t holding a gun in the poster for G.I. Joe: Retaliation; he was holding a gun.