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Rundown, The (2003)

PG-13 104 minutes

Directed by Peter Berg
Written by R.J. Stewart and James Vanderfilt

 · The Rock
 · Seann William Scott
 · Rosario Dawson
 · Christopher Walken

Review by Donnie

Have you ever had that problem where you see the trailer for a film so many times that you completely lose interest in seeing the actual product? Such was the case for me with The Rundown, the latest movie starring the man whom the media has crowned The Next Big Action Star: The Rock. And this certainly wasn't one of those trailers that you beg to see as you sit in the dark theater, just waiting to get swept up in three minutes of slick editing and awesome visuals. No, the trailer for The Rundown was pretty mediocre, blandly laying out the entire course of the movie in a conventional, rather unimaginative way. By my seventh or eighth time sitting through it over the past few months, I was ready to bolt out of the emergency fire exits and run on home.

Yet even a film with a lame trailer usually has something that makes me think it might overcome its marketing mistakes. The Rundown got me halfway to the theater with director Peter Berg, who previously helmed the pitch black, utterly twisted comedy Very Bad Things, which most people hated but I enjoyed. I was dragged the rest of the way by co-star Seann William Scott, who makes me laugh my ass off no matter how bad the material is that he's given--unless it's Dude Where's My Car level of awfulness, but hardly anything manages to achieve that.

Before I knew it, I had plopped myself down in a dark theater to watch the new millennium's answer to the buddy action flick, thankful that I could finally see a different batch of trailers. Luckily, I didn't have to utilize the emergency exits.




Usually when you're talking about a big Hollywood action film, the word "brainless" gets thrown into the descriptive blender. While the basic plot of The Rundown doesn't have anything overly original or mind blowing mixed into it, that doesn't mean that it's without its unique touches. The story kicks into high gear when "retrieval expert" Beck (The Rock, a.k.a. Dwayne Johnson) is hired to find Travis Walker, a young archaeologist who is searching for a long lost ancient artifact down in the Amazon. Apparently Travis has slept with the wrong woman, and his father would like him back in L.A. to clean up his mess. It's up to Beck--who is, of course, on one last mission--to track him down and bring him home.

Once in the jungle, Beck runs into the villainous Hatcher (Christopher Walken, weird and entertaining as ever), a ruthless fortune hunter who runs the town of El Dorado like a slave driver. He'd like to get his hands on the same artifact that Travis is searching for, as would Mariana (Rosario Dawson), a local bartender. It doesn't take much time for Beck to find Travis and attempt to escort him home, but that's where chaos starts to ensue. Chaos that includes rebel tribesmen, hormonal monkeys, ancient booby traps, hallucinogenic fruit, and a score of other things.

While the plot is entertaining enough, the film would most certainly fall apart if not for the chemistry of the two leads. I'll admit that I didn't expect much from The Rock, seeing that the track record of wrestlers-turned-actors isn't all that great, but I was pretty impressed. He could have made Beck into a caricature, but instead plays him very believably as a nice guy who doesn't want to kick your ass, but certainly will if he has to. Seann William Scott is a scene-stealer as usual, running off with lots of laughs and providing a great second banana to The Rock's action hero.

Director Peter Berg keeps everything moving along at a fast pace, and thankfully avoids that hyper kinetic, overly edited style that so many films go for these days. The fight scenes (and there's a lot of them) are also amazingly well done. I was thankful that there didn't appear to be an overabundance of CGI or wirework, both of which annoy the crap out of me when used in excess. The fight scenes look brutal and painful, just like they're supposed to.




I'm not one who is entertained by your standard action fare, so The Rundown had to face an uphill battle to win me over. Luckily the film is above the standard and provides some interesting touches that definitely help to elevate the experience. One thing I especially liked is that Beck has issues with using guns and likes to avoid them at all costs. This means that instead of the typical shoot-em-up and blow-em-up business, we get a completely different crop of action scenes that involve a lot of fisticuffs and inventive makeshift weaponry. Of course, there are some gifts in the film's climax for shoot-em-up fans as well, since no action romp would be entirely complete without them.

By the time the film ended I felt like I had been taken on quite the ride, which is the main reason people go these types of movies in the first place. What matters most is that the movie is fun, and a much-needed shot of adrenalin after a summer of lackluster, ho-hum wannabe blockbusters.



Don't go to this movie if you're looking for deep thought or if you want to see the reinvention of the action film. This movie certainly tweaks convention, but there's not much ground covered that hasn't been tread on before. Still, fans of the genre will find a lot of laughs, some excellent fight scenes and a handful of charismatic actors working their hardest to keep the audience entertained. This one is well worth the price of admission, and I can guarantee that you won't even be glancing toward the emergency fire exits while you're in the theater.

961 Words Published: 2 October 2003

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