At some point in the early 2000’s, somebody decided that the WWE was not making enough money and some of their revenue earning efforts should be spent trying to make feature films. Thus, WWE Studios was born, the division of the WWE with the mandate of creating feature films that could help gain popularity for wrestlers. The first several projects that WWE Studios actually played a part in were all starring Dwayne “The Rock" Johnson, in pictures such as The Scorpion King, The Rundown and Walking Tall. Unfortunately, other than overseeing Johnson’s participation in these films, WWE Studios had varying levels of involvement and was generally not the primary production company. They did however; start to make more movies that were unilateral efforts after these experiments were deemed successes.
Overall, these efforts have ranged from completely awesome to absolutely miserable. WWE Studios has been the driving force behind well over twenty films, most of which have seen very limited theatrical release, and others which were straight to DVD release. Most of the movies produced by WWE Studios have included WWE wrestlers, most commonly John Cena, and others such as Kane, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Triple H have also starred in one or more films. Recently, rather than focusing all movies on being career boosters for their own superstars, WWE films hired Halle Berry to star in one of their films, which actually did fairly well.
The majority of these films are of the action variety, with some being extremely dark, such as The Condemned, while others are based around the US armed forces, such as The Marine. What I can say is that these movies are entertaining, have just enough violence, while being just campy enough that I can’t take them seriously enough to realistically criticize. Here is my list of the top five money-making movies made by WWE Studios. These numbers include box office revenue and rental/video/DVD sales where applicable.
5 12 Rounds – Revenue: $17,280,326
This 2009 cop thriller stars John Cena, a cast of forgettable bad guys and hottie Ashley Scott, best known for co-starring with The Rock in Walking Tall. She was also in Jericho, if you remember the greatest series that the world was robbed of after only three seasons. This movie has a somewhat unoriginal cat and mouse theme to it, as Cena’s girlfriend gets kidnapped by an arms smuggler with whom he has a long standing rivalry. The idea of 12 rounds, entails the fact that throughout the movie, Miles Jackson (Aiden Gillan), the smuggler, has 12 challenges that Danny Fisher (Cena) has to accomplish in order to keep his girlfriend alive and maintain his own safety. I’m not going to blow smoke at you guys and say this is a brilliant flick. The acting is not the best, but asJohn Cena’s first effort as a jacked up, pissed off cop with big muscles, he pulls it off. Overall the movie is exciting but a predictable example of a tried and true method of film making.
4 The Condemned - Revenue: $30,935,183
This is a film based upon what I think is a pretty interesting idea. In The Condemned, a millionaire entrepreneur with an internet start-up business has purchased the lives of 10 death row inmates from around the world and will allow them to fight on a small, uninhabited island, with the last alive being granted freedom.
The Condemned details the experiences of the people on this show. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is the protagonist, Jack Conrad, who tries throughout the movie to not kill his foes and briefly works together with one of the other convicts. There is no shortage of bad guys in this movie but the worst of them is Ewan McStarley, played by the great Vinnie Jones. If you aren’t familiar with Vinnie Jones, he was in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrells and The Midnight Meat Train. Go watch both, develop an appreciation and then watch this, because his sadistic, bloodthirsty and happy demeanor throughout this film really adds to the experience. The Condemned is a great movie if you have a slight hangover and just want to sit on a couch and watch gratuitous violence and some grunting. Other than that it isn’t much.
3 See No Evil – Revenue: $34,910,968
This movie is really nothing special. It’s just a drawn out slasher/horror flick starring long time WWE star Kane. His character is ironically named Jacob Goodnight, and is essentially the archetypical horror movie psychopath with a disturbing back story and a chip on his shoulder. His back story had religious overtones that actually made me laugh. See No Evil isn't much of a horror movie in the sense of good horror, such as The Exorcist or even a film like The Ring. Instead it just bludgeons its viewer with nauseating gore. Where the Texas Chainsaw Massacre specialized in limb removal and the Saw and Hostel movies focused on torture, See No Evil's forte is nothing other than eye plucking; again part of Kane's character's twisted back story. While I can't say I genuinely found this movie scary, I was entertained by Kane's use as the antagonist. Playing the killer in a slasher flick is simple: be angry, be intimidating, and show no remorse. Kane pulls this off. So in short, if you want to see Kane in a movie, and want that movie to be disgusting, See No Evil is a good watch, other than that, go outside and watch the grass grow.
2 The Marine - Revenue: $52,695,608
I'm not sure if the standard operating procedure for room entry in the USMC field manual includes the phrases: “kick in door, fire weapon full auto, shoot grenade launcher, grab human shield, kill last 2 enemies with sidearm”, but Sgt John Triton (John Cena’s character) wasn’t really one for the field manual anyway. Other than that, there are other inaccuracies all over this film, such as the fact that a Soviet-made Hind gunship is shooting up Iraqis during the escape at the start of the film. However, if you can get past the overall ridiculousness, this is a very watchable action flick, if all you are looking for is a flag-waving bloodbath. The story itself follows John Triton as he adjusts to life back in the US after he was forcibly retired from the Marine Corps because he got creative with his implementation of orders. He doesn’t seem to have PTSD or any other awful realities of war, but he just seems to be too good at violence for civilian life. His girlfriend then gets kidnapped, by a ruthless criminal mastermind, played by Robert Patrick, the infamous T-1000.
If that’s not enough to get you watching, then you and I just don’t speak the same language. As I’ve said before about Cena, he’ll never win an academy award, but if you want a musclebound, intimidating cop or military figure, who looks ridiculously American, he’s your man. As for Robert Patrick, playing Mr. Rome is just business as usual. He plays a bad man and he plays him well. Overall, if you want a bad action movie that is essentially a worse rehash of half the flicks Schwarzenegger did in the 80s, this is your film.
1 The Call – Revenue: $68,572,378
The Call was an amazing and painful watch at the same time. The star of the film is Halle Berry, who plays a 911 dispatcher, traumatized about a call-gone-wrong earlier in her career. The only wrestler in the film is WWE star David Otunga, who plays a minor supporting role as a cop. The plot of the movie follows a kidnapping victim, Casey (played by young star Abigail Breslin) who calls Jordan (Berry's character) from the trunk of her captor, as she tries to help the police find her and apprehend the scumbag. The kidnapper, played by Michael Eklund, is a truly disgusting creature, who becomes more and more detestable as the film progresses. The emotional back and forth between Casey and Jordan is enough to make the movie watchable, but the actions of the kidnapper get worse as the movie goes on, leaving the viewer drooling for something horrible to finally happen to him. Watch this movie, if you haven’t already, because the acting is good and it will piss you off profoundly. Finally, it is WWE Studios' most successful film and it definitely earned it.
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