September 30, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 18  

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The Rundown a good natured action flick

By Brent Carpenter
Gazette Staff

The Rundown

Starring: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Sean William Scott, Christopher Walken, Rosario Dawson, Ewan Bremner
Directed by: Peter Berg

Universal Studios/2003
CAN YOU SMELL WHAT ROCK IS COOKIN'? Sean Williams Scott and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson face off in The Rundown.

The Rundown is a well-shot, fast-paced, generally well-acted buddy flick.

Director Peter Berg (Very Bad Things) - keen to give the viewer something a little different in terms of visuals - has essentially created a live-action cartoon. It is loud, the characters are caricatures, the action is overblown, but it's all in the name of entertainment.

The problem here seems to be that in their attempt to hit every demographic, the studio (along with Berg) may actually wind up alienating their most important age-group - action-hungry teens and young adults.

With The Rundown, you're basically getting the most gee-golly-good-natured-mom-and-pop-pleasing popcorn-flick this side of Space Jam (was that an action movie?). It's unfortunate, but it still doesn't necessarily make for a boring time at the multiplexes.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars as Beck, a "retrieval expert" sent by his shady employer to the small mining town of El Dorado, Brazil. Apparently, his boss' son Travis (Stifler) has gotten himself into trouble with the wrong people and would be better off at home with his criminal dad.

Upon his arrival in El Dorado, it takes Beck about three seconds to find Travis and about three and a half to get them both into trouble. See, the town is run by the mysterious Hatcher (Walken), a despotic loonie-bin who has built a gold-mining empire.

Hatcher is well aware Travis is close to discovering an ancient artifact called El Gato (don't ask) and will do anything to ensure it winds up in his possession. This leads to an entertaining confrontation in the local bar (run by Dawson's Mariana) between our heroes and Hatcher's henchman, that ultimately leaves Beck and Travis lost.

The obvious contradictions in character between Beck and Travis is played up (and some may argue, played out) pretty quickly. The actors have good chemistry onscreen, but the script never really allows them to get beyond the clichéd "I can't believe I'm lost in the jungle with THIS guy" banter.

Also, there's nothing even close to resembling sexuality, unless you count Dawson's natural appearance or perhaps the scene in which Beck has to help the handcuffed Travis "go pee."

The action in the film, though bloodless, is still entertaining for the most part. You see, Beck doesn't like guns. In a refreshing move for the action genre, guns aren't used by the screenwriter as a lazy way for the hero to dispatch bad guys.

Instead, courtesy of Chinese fight choreographer Andy Cheng, we get a strangely entertaining and hard-hitting mix of hand-to-hand and wire-aided combat. Don't worry, the "wire-fu" usually doesn't call attention to itself and when it does, it doesn't really affect the film in a negative way.

In the end, The Rundown seems most successful in convincing movie-goers The Rock is the real deal. It is far too early to tell whether he will put together a filmography to rival his pal Ah-Nuld, but based upon what we've seen so far, he has a pretty good shot.

As far as the film itself goes, all the talent involved (especially the hilariously odd Walken) seem to be having fun. The movie moves at a brisk pace and rarely drags - younger kids and their parents will love it. It may be a little light and goofy for the young-adult crowd, but then again - it all depends on what you're looking for.



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