Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson electrifies in “Ballers” premiere

Scott Fishman


Dwayne Johnson. photo: Gene Page/courtesy of HBO

“Legends don’t retire. They reinvent.”

This isn’t just a tagline to advertise the new HBO series “Ballers,” It’s also something the show’s star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has done his whole life.

The WWE superstar turned box office champion did it when his football career came to an end, and he had seven bucks in his pocket. As Spencer Strasmore, he must do the same thing in transitioning from laying the smackdown on the gridiron to the negotiating table in handling the finances of some of the top players.

Strasmore is under pressure from his horrible boss Joe (Rob Corddry) to use his connections and access to secure big-bill clients. Behind the shades and expensive suits there is a man struggling to reaffirm his identity and maintain his golden image.

The fast cars, loose women and party atmosphere are all here under the Miami backdrop. The death of his friend Rob in a car crash with his mistress leads to Strasmore speaking at his funeral. We are then introduced to many of the other cast. Among them is Charles Greane (Omar Benson Miller), who finished up his career playing offensive line for the Bucs and is looking for his next move. He seems like the most genuine of the group, which would make him a crappy car salesman.

Then there is Ricky Jerret, (John David Washington, son of Denzel!) the stereotypical star athlete who finds trouble at every pass. A fight at a club gets him released by the Packers and forced to do damage control. Jerret ultimately signs with the Dolphins. When he hears the good news, Spencer brings up the idea of taking him on as a client.

Troy Garity, Dwayne Johnson. photo: Gene Page/courtesy of HBO

Elsewhere, Spencer takes a gamble by loaning $300,000 to Vernon and tells him to stop being used by those around him. We see just how much his buddies mean to him when he can’t get $200 from an ATM.

In the end, “Ballers” isn’t reinventing the wheel, but is 30 minutes of R-rated fun. As a South Florida resident, I particularly enjoy the locales shown throughout the show. I can watch and say, “I know where that is,” or, “I was there!” So there is another added level of enjoyment. Football fans in general will get more out of the show, of course. I’m not a huge follower, but seeing a foul-mouthed Don Shula on my TV screen brought a smile to my face.

Whether it’s on the big screen or the little one, Johnson electrifies. He oozes with charisma, making him a perfect anchor for this “Entourage”-like show. Favorite line from the episode is advice I’m sure you can’t get from Wharton School

“If it drives, flies, floats, or f—-, lease it!”

  • Watch “Ballers” 10/9 CT on HBO.
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