The Rundown
starring the Rock, Sean William Scott, Rosario Dawson and Christopher Walken 
4 stars

review by Stephen Notley

Give the people what they want, I always say. And what do they want from The Rundown? Is it lots of scenes of The Rock stumblin' through a jungle performing wacky misadventures while dishing out and receiving bodyslamfulls of punishment? Sure it is! And, for once, a movie actually delivers what it promises.

Y'gotta give it to The Rock: he's a pretty entertaining, charismatic guy. Here he plays Beck, a bounty hunter, or "retrieval expert" as he's denoted by the NFL-style graphic that slams up near the beginning of the movie to tell us who he is. But we already know who he is. He's The Rock. He's a living cartoon character, with his bemused smirk and raised eyebrow saying "What's this now?" better than words ever could.

As Beck, he's appealingly restrained. Squeezed into a huge light suit, he's got the calm confidence of a big guy who would really prefer not to have to throw his weight around. He's unfailingly polite, always offering option A or option B, always regretful when people pick option B. And, in a pleasing twist on the typical American action hero, he doesn't like guns, pulling them out of his opponent's belts, popping the clips and tossing them away mid-fight.

Yep, he's a fun character, and while the story is a bit of a rambling goof-up, with elements of Midnight Run, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Salvador kinda jumbled together, it turns out to be no chore at all to spend 90 minutes watching it all unfold.

A good supporting cast always helps. Beck's target, the guy he's trying to drag out of the jungle, is played by Sean William Scott, Stiffler from American Pie (lordy, those American Pie kids do get around, donít they?). He's lately been building a little mini-career for himself as the smart-alecky straight man to a superhero; before backing up The Rock in the Rundown a few of us saw him perform the same duty for Chow Yun Fat in Bulletproof Monk. While he's not terrifically hilarious in his own right, he makes a convincingly annoying fly buzzing around The Rock's head, bringing on glare after glare of "Don't push me, kid" from our wrestling hero.

And then we have Rosario Dawson as bartender/rebel leader Mariana; folks may remember her as Edward Norton's smolderingly old-for-her-years girlfriend in 25th Hour. As a character, she doesn't have a lot to do here, but as a female presence she has just the right look of patient amusement to highlight what total boobs the two guys are. And, uh, she looks great.

And if that wasn't enough, we've also got Chris Walken hamming it up as local mine owner/bad guy Hatcher. He's like an extra bonus treat in the movie, grizzled, sunburnt, rasping out orders in Chris Walken rhythms from under his hat. Not a classic Chris Walken performance, but enjoyable.

So with all this in place we have a bunch of scenes, most of which are pretty amusing, if  not laugh-out-loud hilarious. As the commercials suggest, there's a scene with the Rock and Scott caught up in snares and fending off monkeys, and there's a balls-out battle between the Rock and a bunch of superfast tiny Brazilians. The Rock, in generous wrestling fashion, is willing to take multiple hits, really get stomped and fast-punched and tossed 20 wire-assisted feet through the air to crack backwards into a log. It's as fun to watch him get the crap kicked out of him as it is to watch him kick the crap out of somebody else.

Director Peter Berg (Very Bad Things) keeps things ticking along, content to move from set piece to set piece and fly mostly on the charisma of his actors. And, in a novel departure from Hollywood norm, the movie doesn't feel like it's too long; it ends about when you feel it should. True, you're not left with anything terribly lasting once it's over, but it's a good time.

 

Homestephennotley@shaw.calinksreviewsfanklubt-shirtsbooksannotationsarchive