The Rundown Review
By Shawn McKenzie 09/26/2003
Since making his box office mark as The Scorpion King, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has really developed his craft. While promoting The Scorpion King, he made a hilarious appearance on “Saturday Night Live” that really displayed his comedic talent. With The Rundown, The Rock gets to show what combining his talents for action and comedy looks like, which looks good.
Beck (The Rock) is an L.A. bounty hunter, or as he calls it, a “retrieval expert.” He usually gets what he wants through intimidation, giving people an A or B choice (A-Beck’s way; B-Beck’s way with force.) If they choose B, like the football player in the opening scene, he has the fighting skills to get the job done, and without the use of a gun (he goes to a dark place when he uses a gun.) He doesn’t want to be a bounty hunter though, preferring instead to be the chef in his own restaurant. When he tells his boss, Billy Walker (William Lucking), his desire, Billy agrees, and will pay him $250,000 to do “one last job” (clichéd, but I didn’t care.) Billy’s son, Travis (Seann William Scott), is searching for a treasure in the Brazilian Amazon, but has gotten into trouble so many times that Billy is getting sick of it. Billy wants Beck to go down there and bring Travis home. Seeing a picture of Travis, Beck thinks that this will be an easy job, since the boy is about a third of his size. Trouble starts before he even arrives, when his pilot, Declan (Ewen Bremner), tells Beck in his thick Scottish accent (he’s almost as hard to understand as Brad Pitt in Snatch) that they will have trouble landing the plane, since there is a herd of bulls on the runway. They land safely, and Declan drives Beck to the town of El Dorado (or Helldorado, as they have nicknamed it.) Beck pays a local businessman named Hatcher (Christopher Walken), who uses the locals as slave labor to mine gold, to help him find Travis. Beck finds Travis and his bartender friend, Mariana (Rosario Dawson), but Hatcher reconsiders, and won’t let Beck take Travis away, since Travis knows where El Gato Diablo, a legendary gold piece worth millions, is located. Hatcher and his right-hand man, Harvey (Jon Gries), want all of them dead (after Travis finds El Gato Diablo of course.) After giving Beck some initial trouble (once they get out of El Dorado), Travis agrees to go home if Beck will help him and Mariana find the gold piece. Mariana wants it so her people can get out of debt to Hatcher, and Travis just wants to be rich. On their way to the gold piece, they encounter some passionate monkeys and some native rebel fighters, including Manito (Ernie Reyes Jr.) If they can avoid being killed by Hatcher, jungle beasts, or rebels, Travis will be rich, and Beck will finally be able to cook his gourmet masterpieces in his own eatery.
The Rock worked with director Peter Berg, who made the twisted, funny movie Very Bad Things, and stunt coordinator Andy Cheng, to make one of the most fun action films of the year. The fight scenes are so creative and cartoonish that they enhance the enjoyment. This movie is Midnight Run on steroids, because it has the intense action and decent comedy (including some very funny scenes involving hallucinogenic fruit) to be worth the ticket price.
Only two things about the movie are negatives…and one is just a minor quibble. First, the title is boring. Before it was named The Rundown, it was going to be named Helldorado, and later Welcome to the Jungle. Both of those previous titles would have hit the tone of the movie better. Second, I wonder if Dawson is sick of being window dressing. She is cute, but her characters in movies tend to be somewhat useless (except in The 25th Hour.) Until I did some research on this movie, I hadn’t realized that she was attempting to speak with a Brazilian accent.
As California gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger suggests in a brief, “blink-and-you’ll miss it” cameo, “Have fun.” That is just what you’ll be having while watching the terribly-titled The Rundown. I can legitimately call The Rock a movie star, and not a wrestler/actor wannabe, like Terry “Hulk” Hogan. You must smell what The Rock is cooking in this movie, because it is tasty.
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