DVD Release Date: Tuesday, March 23, 2004
The easiest thing for action/adventure/comedy movies to do is be corny. Fortunately, “The Rundown” never does that, eliciting no snide snickering at any time, just legitimate laughter and thrilling action sequences. It mixes part “48 Hours,” part “Indiana Jones” and a good serving of its own unique ingredients into a wholly enjoyable film.
“The Rundown” rests on the broad shoulders of its star, Dwayne Johnson, otherwise known as The Rock from Vince McMahon’s WWE. He plays Beck, a man who specializes in retrieving things. In the opening scene, he dismantles an entire offensive line in order to retrieve a ring from a mouthy football player.
Soon after, Beck is commissioned by a wealthy businessman named Billy to track down his son, who dropped out of Stanford to chase treasure in Brazil. Travis, played by Seann William Scott (Stifler of “American Pie” fame), is going to be Beck’s last rundown, before he starts a new life operating a small restaurant. Meanwhile, Travis is tracking the Gato, a priceless artifact.
This plot sufficiently sets the scene for 104 minutes of hard-hitting action sprinkled with witty repartee and absolutely hilarious exchanges between Rock, Scott, and Christopher Walken, who plays Hatcher, the villain. While these three men may not spring to mind as the most likely trio, rest assured it works extraordinarily well. Rosario Dawson (“25th Hour”) also joins the cast as the bartender Mariana, who is equal parts sexy and tough, and she is the perfect complement to three males.
The Rock is the true lead, but “The Rundown” succeeds because everyone plays off each other so well. The Rock and Scott have an undeniable comic chemistry that carries most of the film. Scott essentially reprises his role from the “American Pie” movies, sans the superfluous arrogance. He is intelligent, but still possesses the smart-aleck tone that he is known for.
The Rock, quite simply, has charisma to spare. While Scott has more lines, and is funnier, it is equally tough to play the straight man to the funny man, and Rock pulls it off without a hitch. He looks very natural on screen, and has an enviable presence. His character is well developed, as he gives the “tough guy with a conscience” role new life. He does not like to hurt people, he wants to open a small restaurant, and he does not like to use guns. When asked why, he says “guns take me to a place I don’t wanna be.” When he says it, we believe him. He even has a cool catch phrase, in which he gives his opponents two options. Option A is “you do what I want,” and option B is “I make you.” It sounds extremely convincing coming from The Rock, and the typical eye rolling that accompanies inane dialogue is nowhere to be found in this film. He is given more to work with than his last film, “The Scorpion King,” and Rock takes the ball and runs with it.
Christopher Walken steals every scene he is in with an incredibly funny character. Fresh off his Oscar-nominated role in “Catch Me If You Can,” Walken’s performance here is campy and over-the-top, and ventures into the realm of self-parody; a place which is okay only for a few actors, and Walken is one of them. His “tooth fairy” scene alone is worth the price of admission.
Director Peter Berg, whose only other film was “Very Bad Things,” directs the film with a steady hand. The action scenes are very well done and get the adrenaline flowing. One in particular sees Beck taking on an entire group of Brazilian rebels. “Don’t worry, they’re little, you can take them,” Travis assures him. One thing that is for sure is The Rock certainly never encountered anybody like these rebels in the WWE.
The script by James Vanderbilt and R.J. Stewart is much better than most action/comedy scripts, especially after some of the drivel released this summer. It plays to the strengths of its stars, and never fails to be exciting and/or humorous. It also does not hurt to have actors as good as The Rock, Seann William Scott, Christopher Walken, and Rosario Dawson reading the lines. Yes, The Rock is a good actor.
There is a shot early in the film when Beck walks into a club. Arnold Schwarzenegger walks by and says “have fun.” It appeared to be a symbolic passing of the torch, the old action star walking out as the new one walks in. If that is indeed the case, The Rock has the talent, marketability, and charm to become the number one action star of the next decade.