The Rundown Movie Review

With the almost guaranteed success of the bounty-hunter action-comedy "The Rundown," eyebrow-arching, mountain-of-muscle wrestler-cum-actor The Rock may well be on his way to becoming this decade's top-dog action-movie hero -- and I'm OK with that.

Exuding screen charisma, showing increasing talent and never taking himself too seriously (unlike unofficial genre rival Vin Diesel), the guy seems to know what to look for in a good B-movie and enthusiastically embraces all the absurdities therein. In both "The Scorpion King," one of last year's best guilty pleasures, and this over-the-top testosterone romp, he seems to be winking at the audience as if to say, "Yeah, I know it's dumb. But aren't you having a great time?"

The Rock stars in "The Rundown" as an aspiring chef and reluctant enforcer for a ruthless, upscale L.A. bookie. Being a colossus and growing up in a bad part of town, he found himself in this racket for lack of better options, and now he wants out so he can start his own restaurant. After an impressively creative opening-scene nightclub brawl erupts between The Rock and a bunch of linebackers when he tries to collect $50,000 from a gambling-addicted NFL star ("They've got a legitimate shot of repeating this year," he tells his boss. "I don't wanna hurt them!"), our hero is given his chance: The Rock can walk away from his mob job if he goes to South America and drags back the boss's good-for-nothing son (Seann William Scott).

Naturally, that proves to be much easier said than done. He arrives in Brazil to discover the snarky lout is on a treasure hunt for a priceless golden idol and in the process has run afoul of a greedy strip-mine operator (oily, paunchy, entertainingly chomp-chompy Christopher Walken) who has enslaved the local population in an enormous (and cheaply CGI-rendered) quarry.

As these two cat-and-mouse through the authentically sweaty, muddy Amazon with Walken's men in hot pursuit (a creative, panning aerial shot zooms out from one group and down onto the other), they run headlong into a jungle-fu-kicking rebel army lead by a robust babe (Rosario Dawson with a on-again-off-again accent), which leads to one of the movie's many lightning-punching powerhouse fight scenes.

Director Peter Berg ("Very Bad Things") takes his cues from Hong Kong for these punch-outs of enjoyably unrealistic resiliency and refreshingly unkinetic editing, but actually breaks new ground with their high-impact choreography. At first The Rock gets pretty well whooped by the rather diminutive rebels, who kick and punch with hummingbird velocity, sending the burly brute flying into trees with a crunching thud you can feel.

Coordinating between stunt coaches and cinematographer, Berg places the camera where he can get the maximum impact of the sometimes dirty fights (burning tree branch to the head -- owch!) and often captures wow-worthy slow-motion shots of, say, The Rock's punch-spun mass crashing head-first through a brick wall (and emerging largely unscathed, of course).

Eventually the no-nonsense hunter, the smart-alec hunted and the sexy, single-minded rebel girl team up to find the ancient Indian idol (insert blatant "Raiders of the Lost Ark" rip-off here and don't ask how Scott knows where to find it), and defeat the brutal but droll Walken -- although not without a few unpredictable and amusing double-crosses.

But as much fun as "The Rundown" can be thanks to its genuinely inventive fights, its weird sense of humor and The Rock's surprisingly naturally performance, the flick is burdened with a irritating Bon-Jovi-like grinding-guitar score, an extraneous scene or two stuck in lowbrow comedy mode, and dialogue that's not so much hackneyed as torpid and tedious.

"Shut up," Scott bellyaches to The Rock. "What did you just say?" The Rock threatens back. Now, I don't expect a zingy repartee between these guys, but come on -- at least give them something worth saying.

Of course, no matter how insipid his lines are, perma-smirking, hyper-active one-note stoner-dude Scott ("American Pie," etc.) finds a way to make them worse with snide over-acting -- which is a telling contrast of talent against Walken, who chews up his lame dialogue and spits it out funnier than it really is.

But sometimes even when the movie's bad, it's good. A big deal is made of The Rock's no-guns philosophy, which seems like a ridiculous conceit for a violent action movie -- until he gets mad enough to fall off the wagon, leading to a raucous shootout finale (unfortunately interrupted by some sloppy comedy cutaways) with the big guy firing a pair of shotguns as if they were six-shooters.

If The Rock's impending reign as action king continues to be as check-you-brain entertaining as "The Rundown" is despite its flaws, and if his acting continues to improve in a way that Schwarzenegger's and Stallone's never did, I might even be willing to call myself a fan.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Comments

The Rundown Rating

" Weak "

Rating: PG-13, WIDE: Friday, September 26, 2003

Advertisement

More Dwayne Johnson

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Will Play The Bad Guy In DC Comics' 'Shazam'

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson will finally star in a superhero movie, and it is fair to say he is the perfect man for the job....

Dwayne Johnson IS In Superhero Movie Shazam, But He's Not The Good Guy...

It was only a matter of time before Dwayne Johnson got a superhero makeover, and many expected him to take the lead in the new...

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Confirms He Will Star In DC Comics' 'Shazam'

It was only a matter of time before Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson would star in a superhero movie, and the 42 year-old star recently revealed...

Dwayne Johnson Indicates Involvement With 'Shazam' Movie Project

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has finally confirmed his involvement with DC Comics and Warner Bros. on an upcoming movie about the superhero Shazam.Dwayne Johnson has...

Advertisement

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Greets Mother Being Released From Hospital After Drunk Driving Crash

Even though Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is one of the toughest, biggest and muscle-bound actors in Hollywood, he is still a mommy's boy at heart,...

Drunk Driver Who Collided With Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's Mother And Cousin Slapped With DUI Charge

The female drunk driver, who crashed head on into the vehicle carrying Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's mother and cousin, was arrested and charged with driving...

Dwayne Johnson Preaches Road Safety After Mother's Severe Car Crash

Dwayne Johnson had some unfortunate news for his fans today – the Hercules star’s mother and cousin were struck head on by a drunk driver....

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Confirms Mother And Cousin Collided With Drunk Driver

This driver may have made the worst mistake of his life! Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson recently revealed some very scary news concerning two very close...

Advertisement