Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a new movie star and you call him “The Rock”.
Duane “The Rock” Johnson surprises all by delivering not only a very good performance but also a sure hit at the box office. Many a critic has unfairly labeled The Rock as just a wrestler. Well The Rock put the smackdown on that stereotype. With charm and screen presence to spare, The Rock has taken the torch from action hero legend Arnold Schwarzenegger and run with it.
The Rock plays Beck, a gun-hating bounty hunter who agrees to pull one last job for his boss (he wants to get out of the business and open a restaurant). After getting assurance that this is his last job, Beck heads to the Brazilian jungle to find his boss’s son, Travis (Seann William Scott). Travis is about to discover a treasure, a native idol, worth millions, and a beautiful lady (Rosario Dawson) is along for the ride. In hot pursuit is Hatcher (Christopher Walken), who wants to get the idol for himself in order to make sure the natives never revolt against his slaveholder grasp over their culture.
Let there be no doubt, The Rock is the star of this show. However, he benefits greatly from the hilarious Seann William Scott. The chemistry between The Rock and Scott is a key to the film and the source of all its funny moments. While not much of a stretch from his roles in the America Pie Trilogy, Scott plays Travis as Stiffler Lite; still funny, but without the gross out stuff. Christopher Walken plays the “bad guy” and steals most of his scenes. He even finds time to teach the natives about the tooth fairy. Walken could read the phone book and make it interesting. Rosario Dawson, thankfully, shows more range in one scene here than she did in Men In Black 2.
If you are looking for deep meaning in this movie, give it up. The Rundown isn’t here to make you smarter. Rundown is here to entertain you and it does its job. It uses the same action flick formula that so many other movies use. The key difference is The Rundown actually makes that old formula work again. As Beck attempts to get Travis back to Los Angeles, they make a wrong turn and end up in the heart of the jungle. The banter between Beck and Travis bring many a laugh from the audience. They also teach us a valuable lesson: if a baboon latches onto your leg, it’s better to let him finish (with apologies to Cousin Eddy from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.) As to be expected, along the way, the duo begin to like each other and you know they’ll eventually team up to bring down the evil Walken.
What keeps The Rundown from becoming bogged down like many other action movies is the speed at which Director Peter Berg pushes the movie. The opening scene is sure to impress you and look for a cameo from a certain governor wannabe! The fight scenes are well choreographed, yet grounded in reality. No stinkin’ hovering bad guys in this one! The pace of the movie is intense; nary a scene drags. You feel as if you jumped on a roller coaster and before you know it, the credits are running.
Berg doesn’t let his movie get sidetracked by unnecessary character development or cheesy subplots. We are told what we need to know and that’s about it. Berg along with editor Richard Pearson squeezes more out of the action genre than we have seen since the days of Midnight Run. On the negative side, I am still not sure why Travis’s dad wants him home. Also, Berg touches on why Beck is reluctant to use guns but never spells it out for us. A tattoo on Beck’s arm alludes to someone dying that was close to him but who? Why?
In addition to bad tattoos, Walken’s CGI quarry is poorly rendered set piece and I am not sure why they even wasted money making it. Better yet, do it without CGI. Think Temple of Doom but rendered like an Atari video game.
Regardless, The Rundown provides a great time to all and hope for the action genre. For years, Hollywood has searched for a new breed of action star. The wait is over. The Rock accomplishes what people like Vin Diesel could not. The Rock isn’t some one dimensional muscle head that only makes a living due to an impressive physique. With surprising presence and quiet confidence, The Rock has cooked up a winner with The Rundown.