STRANGE SIGHTINGS IN THE NETFLIX BASEMENT
I made a joke about Scorpion King IV at the end of my Prisoners of the Sun review and then lo and behold, guess what shows up in the Netflix basement? I also joked about how the movie didn’t have any recognizable actors, but I was wrong. There’s Rutger Hauer, Michael Biehn, Barry Bostwick, Don “The Dragon” Wilson and JT Walsh in a Medieval Action Comedy. Come on, you know you need to check this out.
The Scorpion King IV: Quest for Power (2015)
We open on a scorpion walking across the desert, and it’s just a matter of time before it gets squashed by some barbarian guards. Then a guy is dragged in behind a horse, warning them of the Scorpion King. Mathayus the Akkadian, the titular Scorpion King, appears and he’s played by a side of beef that kind of sort of resembles The Rock. Mathayus and his buddy Drazen, the horse-dragged guy kung fu the guards, then enter the fortress.
They walk down a hallway that is suddenly filled with whizzing blades. Mathayus and Drazen literally waltz together down the hall to avoid the blades. “Don’t get any ideas,” says Mathayus. “That better be a dagger in your pocket,” retorts Drazen. Then they steal a Golden Doohickey of Power and a wooden cage lands on them. The guards rush back in and they fight some more. Drazen’s go-to move is a nut punch, and then Mathayus stabs a barbarian dude in the butt.
Holy crap, it’s Lou Ferrigno, and he gets to choke Drazen and have an enjoyable axe fight with Not The Rock. Drazen tries the nut punch again but there is a ka-bong sound, as Lou’s balls are made of iron and Drazen hurts his hand. There is banter, Mathayus is captured, and Drazen betrays him and makes off with the Doohickey of Power. That’s only the first 10 minutes of movie.
Flash forward and Rutger Freaking Hauer is the King and the whole stealing the treasure business is forgotten about. Rutger gives some exposition to Mathayus about how Drazen was a spy and a thief and Mathayus is tasked with making peace with Drazen in order to get the Golden Doohickey back. Mathayus sniffs, “Your Highness, I am not the person you send to make peace. I will not go.” Smash cut to Mathayus riding on a camel, the least impressive of all beasts of burden as he bumps up and down across the desert.
And then the movie gets really silly. In short order, Mathayus teams up with a blonde warrior princess with remarkable abs. There is an absurd chase-fight with Drazen’s low rent henchmen. Then Barry Bostwick appears as a mad inventor who we meet while he is catapulting himself dressed in a chicken suit trying to invent flight. Mathayus and Barry dress up as women to sneak into the Cult of the Fertility Goddess. And then JT Walsh enters, as a really debauched fight master who forces Princess Abs to wrestle in an extended Bronze Age Ultimate Fighting Championship bout.
There is so much going on, and so much fun and ridiculous stuff that the movie is a hoot. This would be a fun movie drunk or sober. Director Mike Elliott has a lot of direct-to-video sequels on his resume, which also means he’s directed a lot of movies. He shows he has a firm control of this material. He makes his limited budget and hokey effects part of the humor. I thought a lot of the jokes worked, and it’s a much more entertaining movie than the original Scorpion King.
I love these kinds of movies and they’re really hard to do. It’s nearly impossible to do a straight fantasy movie and it’s equally hard to do a slapstick self-referential version. This one splits the difference and I have to give credit to the leads Victor Webster and Ellen Hollman for hitting the right tone of seriousness and self-importance that makes all of the ridiculous stuff going on around them funnier. That leaves Bostwick to play the bumbling inventor and get most of the funny lines.
BOTTOM LINE: Considering this is part 4 of a spin-off of the goofy Brendan Fraser Mummy franchise, this movie is much better than I expected. It’s pitched at a ridiculous level, and I thought it was really entertaining in a cheeseball Conan The Barbarian homage sort of way. Barry Bostwick is hilarious. There are a number of Jackie Chan style chase-fights. And I didn’t even get to talk about the burping contest with a tribe of little people. If you have fond memories of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys or Xena: The Warrior Princess, or Galavant, then you’ll smell what Not The Rock is cooking. Scorpion King IV: Quest for Power is surprisingly fun and funny and definitely worth checking out.