For someone so naturally, winningly charismatic, and someone who’s generally been the best thing in the generally terrible movies he’s starred in, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson hasn’t had the easy road to A-list stardom that you might imagine. His action vehicles, even solid ones like “The Rundown,” generally fizzled, and his biggest hits came from family flicks like “The Game Plan” and “The Tooth Fairy.” But all that changed last year. “Fast Five” was sold on the prospect of the former wrestler throwing down with fellow slap-head muscle man Vin Diesel, and the film coasted to a half-billion dollar worldwide gross; finally Johnson was the action star he was always destined to be.
But to his credit, the actor continues to mix it up. He’ll return for “Fast Six” and “Fast Seven,” and imminently has another terrible-looking family film in “Journey 2,” but he’s also toplining the drama “Snitch,” and according to Deadline, circling a heist movie of a more indie persuasion. The site reports that Johnson is in negotiations to star in “Empire State,” a thriller based around the real-life robbery of the Sentry Armored Car Company in 1982; an $11.4 million haul that, at the time, was the biggest cash robbery in U.S. history.
And it’s not the only injection of beefcake that the project is getting, as Liam Hemsworth, brother of “Thor” and star of the upcoming “The Hunger Games” and “The Expendables 2,” is locked into the project, playing the role of Chris to Johnson’s Ransone. It’s a pairing that seems to have lit a fire long repressed in Deadline head honcho Nikki Finke, who comments “this movie features my kind of casting; 8-pack abs times two. I like male pulchritude with muscles.” Well, now we know what La Finke has pinned above her desk.
On paper, it could be another dumb heist movie, but the script comes from Adam Mazer, who was behind the underrated “Breach” and the Emmy-winning HBO movie “You Don’t Know Jack,” so we’re hopeful this could be something a little smarter than, say, “Armored.” But then, an actual rock is smarter than “Armored.” The wild card right now is director Dito Montiel, who got off to a decent start with coming-of-age drama “A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints,” but has since squandered most of that goodwill with “Fighting” and “The Son Of No One,” the latter of which numbered among the all-time Sundance train-wrecks when it premiered in Park City last year. Hopefully he can regain his mojo for this one. Filming is set to get underway in April.