First Look: Dwayne Johnson Stars as Mark Kerr in 'The Smashing Machine'

Exploring the depths of human resilience in cinema.

by Nouman Rasool
First Look: Dwayne Johnson Stars as Mark Kerr in 'The Smashing Machine'
© Jesse Grant/Getty Images

Dwayne Johnson is due to wow audiences again as he surprises everyone with his turn as MMA legend Mark Kerr in the long-gestating A24 drama, "The Smashing Machine." Helmed by Benny Safdie, it's one hell of a swerve for Johnson, who is almost unrecognizable here.

Meanwhile, Emily Blunt plays Dawn Staples, wife to Kerr: broken but supportive, they reunite after the victory of their duet in "Jungle Cruise." "The Smashing Machine" is really the story of Kerr's wild and crazy life, a great fighter who fought his battles not only in the ring.

A two-time UFC Heavyweight Tournament Champion, World Vale Tudo Championship winner, Kerr had epic highs and lows, addiction, and marital problems. Johnson was committed to making his character real, and this involved not only the body transformation with facial prosthetics to take him closer to the fighter but also to render the complicated persona that is Kerr.

Safdie's Directorial Debut

This then would also be the feature debut for Benny Safdie, who co-directed indie favorites Good Time and Uncut Gems with his brother, Josh. "The Smashing Machine" would constitute a sole directing credit on his part, but he should bring a singular vision when it comes to its biopic, promising to be raw and relatable in its storytelling of the human struggle and human resilience.

The project initially began in 2019 when Johnson and Safdie first discussed the idea. However, it was shelved temporarily due to the pandemic. The project regained momentum following a conversation between Johnson and Blunt, during which Blunt suggested Johnson should pursue the film after watching the 2002 documentary about Kerr's life.

Johnson, inspired by Safdie's passion for telling gritty, authentic stories, expressed his desire to tackle roles that challenge him and resonate on a deeper level, reflecting personal growth and the exploration of human frailties.

The Smashing Machine is being produced by Johnson's Seven Bucks Productions, Safdie's Out for the Count banner, Eli Bush, and David Koplan, telling the documentary about the life of iconic MMA. A24 has not yet set a release date, but expectations are very high from both the film industry and fans who are ready to witness an unforgettable cinematic experience.

Dwayne Johnson