by Ryan Arthur
Alright, confession time. I watch wrestling. I've been a casual fan since I was ten years old, and I've seen a lot of it in that time. For all the talk about athletes that may be able to make the transition to acting, I'm pretty much convinced that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is the real deal. He's got the looks, the talent, and the charisma to make it in films. WWF/WWE was his platform and his stepping stone. The Rundown is his coming out party, and wrestling's loss is ultimately Hollywood's (and our) gain.The Rundown is your basic buddy comedy/action adventure. I've seen comparisons to both Midnight Run and 48 Hrs., with a dash of Romancing The Stone for location, and I'm not sure that's really a fair assessment to any of the films, but I guess I can go with that. The Rock is Beck, a bounty hunter-collection type (he's called a "retrieval expert") working for the wrong kind of guys. He knows it, and he wants out. He's a big, strapping, badass guy, but all he really wants to do is own his restaurant and be a chef. He's got his little black book, not full of names of asses kicked, but of ingredients and recipes. I liked that.
"It's like Tarzan Jungle Ju-Juitsu!"
We're introduced to Beck as he goes to collect from a football player who owes on gambling debts. He needs the player's ring (presumably Super Bowl) as collateral. He only has to go through the player's offensive line that surrounds him. Beck's hesitant at first ("They've got a good chance of repeating this year," he tells his boss, Walker) but proves to be up to the challenge. He gets his collateral, following a rocking (no pun intended) sequence where he hands his opposition its collective ass...only to be dropped by one of Walker's other hired goons, who grabs the ring and a chunk of Beck's fee. Walker (William Lucking) tells Beck that he wasn't sure Beck could handle himself, but Beck (rightfully so) feels played. He tells Walker he wants out of the collection business. Walker will allow it after one last job.
The proverbial "one last job" is always the catalyst for characters like Beck. The quarry this time is Walker's own son Travis (Seann William Scott), a Stanford dropout and would-be fortune hunter who's traipsing around the Amazon jungle after being on the run for some past indiscretions that his dad wants him to finally own up to. Find Travis, Walker says, and Beck's a free man, with $250K to start his own restaurant. Travis is the final rundown, and Beck takes the job.
He catches up to Travis easily enough, but he's got to get him out of the jungle, and that's where the meat of the movie comes in. Travis is hunting for the Gato (it's actually "el gato de something," the literal translation being "The Devil's Cat," but I've not had Spanish since my junior year of high school, Travis talks relatively fast, and I could swear they speak Portugese in Brazil, anyway, making the whole thing moot), a priceless relic that'll make him rich and/or famous, but will also free the Brazilian people (including bartender-and-more Mariana, played by Rosario Dawson) that are currently working in mines for a ruthless guy by the name of Hatcher (Christopher Walken).
Ah, Walken. I got excited when I heard the Rock was making a movie with Stifler, Dawson (looking delicious, as usual) and Walken, if only for the potential DVD extras of Scott and The Rock doing their best Walken impersonations. That could make this movie be fun, I thought.
And it is. The Rundown is a lot of fun, and honestly, it doesn't really surprise me that I liked it as much as I did. The action sequences are just slightly over the top, but not enough for you to make you roll your eyes at the screen. Director Peter Berg cuts them in such a way that it's very kinetic, always moving, and all you can do is try to follow the action. There's certainly plenty of action to follow. Beck hates guns ("guns take me to a place I don't want to go," he says), and judging by the way he dispatches of his foes, one tends to think he doesn't really need them. It's for the better: The Rundown isn't confined by the conventions of two or ten or a hundred guys just shooting at one another...at least until the final reel, when Beck takes up a couple of shotguns. Until then, Berg has Travis and Beck deal with wire-fu kickboxing Brazilian rebels, horny howler monkeys, bad guys with whips, guns and the elements of the jungle itself, and it plays like a hell of a ride.
Scott does his share of stealing scenes. Travis is every bit the wiseass that Steve Stifler is, but he's not nearly as crude. That's a testament to Scott. He's playing second banana, and he fits the role perfectly. The same goes for Walken. He's the bad guy, he chases the hero, he chews the scenery, and he gets what's coming to him...but he does it in the inimitable Walken way. He's awesome. He's Walken, man. Dawson isn't given much, but she more than makes do with her character.
At the center of it all, though, is the Rock. I've watched the guy in the ring since '96, and you've always been able to tell it about the guy: he's got it. He's pure charisma, and it shines through in The Rundown. His Beck is confident, a guy who does his job and does it well, even if he's always aspiring to better things. He owns the screen whenever he's on it; you're drawn to the guy because of that certain something, that x-factor that you can't quite put your finger on. The Rock does action and comedy well (see his hosting stints on Saturday Night Live if you don't believe me), and I have no doubt he could do a leading man-type role in the future.In the end, I dug The Rundown because it was, yes, a mindless action movie, which I generally have a soft spot for, but also because it really was a lot of fun. You've got Walken, Scott and Dawson having fun doing their thing (and doing it well), and the legitimate birth of a bona-fide movie star in The Rock. That makes it worthwhile for me, and the fact that it's an enjoyable movie for the audience is pretty much the icing on the cake.
link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8182&reviewer=7
originally posted: 09/27/03 18:43:35