Directed by Chuck Russell, starring The Rock, Kelly Hu, Steven Brand, Michael Clarke Duncan, Bernard Hill and Grant Heslov.

Set 2000 years before the first coming of 'The Mummy', 'The Scorpion King' comes to us with the sole purpose of maintaining the huge cash flow generated by the blockbuster hits of 1999 and 2001. Retaining director Steven Sommers as co-producer and co-scriptwriter, Universal Pictures have no doubt hired an extra team of accountants to process the influx of dough that they're expecting with this lark. Well if there's any rhyme or reason to the habits of the cinema-going public, they should think again, because 'The Scorpion King' is miserable fare in comparison to its livelier, funnier and infinitely more entertaining predecessors.

It's five thousand years ago, and ruthless warlord Memnon (Brand) has taken control of most of the ancient world. Only a handful of desert tribes remain outside his rule, and even these are falling rapidly to his advancing army of vicious barbarians. Those tribes who stand between Memnon and imperious domination grudgingly unite to provide some sort of opposition to the warlord, and resolve to rid Memnon of his most powerful weapon – a soothsayer who plots his strategies to ensure victory. To help with the elimination of the seer, the tribes enlist the help of the warrior Mathayus (The Rock), a fearless Akkadian combatant descended from a long line of tribal assassins.

Mathayus travels to Memnon's palace in the notorious city of Gomorrah, and chances upon the clairvoyant who provides the foundation for the latter's military conquests. But, as luck would have it (for all parties), the seer is not the wizened grim reaper they'd all imagined it to be, but rather a strikingly beautiful young woman called Cassandra (Hu). This, of course, makes it nigh impossible for Mathayus to carry out his contract, and rather than practice his talent of plunging sharpened steel into human flesh, he kidnaps Cassandra and retreats to the Valley of the Damned. But Mathayus knows he can't evade Memnon forever, and realises that the only way he'll be able to restore peace and order is to go sword to sword with the evil warlord…

'The Scorpion King' is a very silly movie. Sometimes, of course, silly movies can be fun and can provide two hours of high-thrill entertainment. This isn't and doesn't. Unforgivably, even the action sequences are a disappointment. Yes, it's big budget, big-scale action but it looks like it was edited together by someone who has gone ten rounds with the Rock – that's ten real rounds, not the carefully paced and charted nonsense of the laughable WWF realm. There are sporadic glimpses of the impressive visuals of the first instalments, but unfortunately they're eaten up in the half-baked action scenes. In an acting sense, The Rock (aka Dwayne Douglas Johnson) chose his arena name well, and even Arnie at his worst (tough call) was never this bad. How any studio head figured Mr Rock could carry a big-budget vehicle on his own is simply mind-boggling. Granted, his shoulders can bare the strain of quite a weight, but carrying this is a feat well beyond him.

'The Mummy' and 'The Mummy Returns' worked largely because of the easy chemistry that existed between stars Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. In the latter flick, the Scorpion King was just another sideshow. Here, he's the head honcho. And the results ain't pretty.

Tom Grealis