25-year old stunner Michael Copon went from playing "Hot Guy at Party" in a movie called Elevator a couple of years ago, to depicting the title character in Scorpion King 2: Rise of the Warrior, a direct to DVD horror-action movie in which UFC wrestling champ Randy Couture gets top billing.
That may not sound like much of a step up, but if you take a few moments to watch this small screen spectacle, you might appreciate that Copon really gives his all as the eager young combatant on a quest (reminiscent of Marc Singer in The Beastmaster); that it's briskly directed by none other than Russell Mulcahy (Highlander, Resident Evil: Extinction); the script is joyous and witty (much as we'd like to, we can't hold Speed 2: Cruise Control against Randall McCormick forever); and the monsters, demons, traps and temptresses are cartoony fun (imagine a Ray Harryhausen 70s classic like The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, but with less-laden sets and some slightly dodgy CGI).
A prequel to the 2002 Mummy-franchise spinoff starring The Rock, Scorpion King 2: Rise of the Warrior follows young and earnest Mathayus (Copon) a would-be warrior who leaves the path of duty to follow his destiny after his father is murdered by the supernatural snake, Sargon (Couture).
On a mission that leads him and his friends (lovely Layla, played by Karen David; snarky scribe Ari, played by Simon Quarterman; and no-nonsense Noah, played by Chase Agulhas; to name a few — there's also some grist for the bloodthirsty mill), Mathayus is in search of the magic sword that will avenge his dad's wrongful death.
The journey takes the scantily-clad, awesomely-ab'd Mathayus into the fetid, lush land of the Dead, into the lair of a seductive She-Demon, and, finally, at the stinging tail of the Scorpion King himself. The action scenes are well-choreographed and fairly suspenseful (in spite of some rather sketchy CGI and puppetry — smart, brutal hands were obviously at work in the editing room, keeping cuts short and quick), the characters are likeable, and the adventure is of the tried and true type.
As I mentioned, the script is strong — in context, as compared, for instance, with the two mythological horror/fantasy epics noted above. If you enjoy movies like those, and Conan The Barbarian and Red Sonya, you will more than likely appreciate the casual, quippy dialogue here which nicely supports the wire-rigged fight scenes, death-defying acrobatics, and monster-slaying swordplay.
Cutting to the chase: Scorpion King 2: Rise of the Warrior is a pleasant surprise, and well worth a look for fans of the genre and admirers of filmmakers who can do a lot with a little.
= = =Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson