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The Rundown (2003)
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Review Date: September 21, 2003
Director: Peter Berg
Writer: R.J. Stewart, James Vanderbilt
Producers: Marc Abraham, Karen Glasser
Actors:
The Rock as Beck
Sean William Scott as Travis
Christopher Walken as Hatcher
Plot:
A bounty hunter is set into the wilds of the Amazon jungle to track down a wanted man for whom he will receive a one-way ticket out of his profession. Once in the woods, the hunter finds himself caught in the middle of a power-mad dictator, a tribe of rebels and a treasure that will save them all. The Rock kicking ashe...ensues!
Critique:
First of all...horrible title! If you're gonna give The Rock his own kickass action film in the jungle, tentatively name it HELLDORADO during the shoot itself, but change it to the very generic THE RUNDOWN before release...it should tell you a little something about how the studio was looking to market this baby. Having said that, I am not a fan of wrestling, but have always loved The Rock, especially after he charmed the pants off me with his hilarious appearance on "Saturday Night Live". I've been waiting for an able replacement to Sly and Arnie, and The Rock is definitely it!! Consider the awesome cameo early on in the film by the potential future Governor himself, which seems to indicate the same. Blink and you'll miss it though. But despite my enthusiasm, my appreciation of The Rock (okay, let's call him Dwayne Johnson from now on) and one of the coolest opening sequences that I've seen this entire year, this film sadly doesn't keep up its manic pace the whole way through, doesn't deliver enough comedy to overcompensate its lame "dramatic" points and drowns our main man and his cohort in many scenes, with the addition of the unwelcome and painfully serious Rosario Dawson, talking shit about "her people" and attempting to give the film a "meaning", despite it obviously being nothing more than a campy, popcorn, let's-let-The-Rock-kick-ass movie that should have stuck to its core strengths and left all that other mumbo-jumbo on the cutting room floor. I could also have done without the umpteen shots of the baddies apparently tracking our leads around the jungle in jeeps. Okay, I get it...they're on their way...

The film is highlighted by enough fun sequences to recommend as a watch in theaters though, including and led by the over-the-top appearance by fan-favorite Christopher Walken as the main baddie doing his best impression of the over-the-top Jon Voight in ANACONDA. You haven't seen great acting until you see Walken discussing the intricacies of the tooth fairy with a clueless, local tribe. Hilarious. But the glue that holds this puppy together is the man of the hour, the wrestler/actor who leaves his trademark "Rock" jokes behind and believably moves into the forefront of all action movie heroes today, and that's Dwayne Johnson, the good-looking, tough-ass, charmed-to-the-brink powerhouse who damages plenty of goods throughout the film, but also delivers an affable enough performance for us to follow him along for the entire ride. I was sure that the addition of Seann William Scott (of who I am also a big fan) would send even more sparks through this film, but unfortunately, he wasn't as all-out funny as he usually is. There were at least three major scenes that stuck out in my mind though (and that's rare in any film coming out of Hollywood today), the first being the incredible opening sequence, which set the ideal foundation for Johnson's character, a confrontation scene in a bar between Johnson and Walken's henchmen (awesome shot of the whip and table...sweet!) and one of the most original fight sequences that I've seen this year with Johnson fighting rock-hard tribesmen. I only wish that the film's finale, which is actually all-out bombast but not as creative as the first half of the film, had been stronger so that I could have walked out of the theater with as much gusto as I had after the first scene. But looking back, I loved Berg's directing panache throughout, had fun with Walken's bad guy, loved Johnson's ass-kicking scenes, a number of which included some wire-fu stuff, but not as obvious as in other movies, and appreciated some of the film's humor (note: the scene with the "special fruits")

So if you can look past its predictable plot, the unfortunate addition of Dawson as the badly-accented "local girl", the generic title and the fact that it tries as hard as it can to remain a PG-13 rated affair, there is actually a lot of fun to be had in here, especially if you're a fan of the big guy & Walken and are basically just looking to enjoy a film on its surface, and not much else. Now please...somebody in Hollywood, give this man a great action script and put him on the map once and for all!
(c) 2017 Berge Garabedian
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