By Vic Holtreman
Short version: Skip through the supposedly funny walk through the jungle scenes and you'll be left with a suprising cool action flick.
Let me start by saying I had very low expectations for The Rundown, starring "The Rock" (real name: Dwayne Douglas Johnson). He plays Beck, a "retrieval expert" with no fear of anyone, but who has an aversion to guns, who happens to want to retire from the strongarm biz in order to open.... a restaurant.
One of the first things to catch my eye was the very brief cameo by Arnold Schwarzenneger, with a pithy comment wherein he passes the action hero torch to Johnson. The next thing to surprise me was how low key Johnson's performance was... it was certainly not nuanced, but I expected a boisterous, WWF-style presentation. Instead he was calm, quiet, and menacing in a "walk quietly and carry a big stick" kind of way. Of course within minutes there is a big fight scene, and let me tell you that this is where this movie excels. Some of the coolest, get-you-fired-up stuff I've seen lately.
I was beginning to worry that I was actually going to like this movie, but alas, eventually Seann William Scott (Stiffler from American Pie) in the role of n'er do well fortune hunter Travis appears on screen, and as things progress, his involvement in the movie is what weakens it.
Beck has to do one final job in order to quit the biz and earn enough seed money to start his restaurant: Find Travis, who is in the Amazon, and bring him back to his (Travis') father in order to meet some payback-type obligation.
Beck makes it down to Brazil, where he meets with Christopher Walken who plays Hatcher, a hard-boiled type paying slave wages to the locals who are mining gold for him. Hatcher runs the town, and demands a cut of everything worth anything.
As usual, Walken excels at the weird/creepy bad guy role. He plays it here kind of tounge-in-cheek, and I enjoyed watching him have fun.
Travis claims to know where a rare gold idol (El Gato) worth millions can be found, but Beck doesn't want to hear any of it. A street-smart local bar owner, Marianna (played by Rosario Dawson) leverages her way into the deal, complications ensue, Beck must compromise and go after the idol after all, and Hatcher ends up on their tail.
It's all extremely predictable, but if director Peter Berg had stuck to making this an early Ahnuld-type straight action movie, this would have been a great popcorn flick. Johnson plays Beck with a coolness that makes me want to see the character come back in another movie, and where this movie rocks is during the fight and action sequences. Unfortunately Berg (or the powers-that-be) decided that this should be an action-comedy, and the scenes where this film tries to be funny (with the exception of one jungle scene towards the end) falls totally flat. And even in that scene it's "The Rock" who gets the laugh, not Scott.
It wouldn't be difficult to cut out the ha-ha stuff without affecting the overall film, and it would be a better movie for it. Rent it, skip most of the walk through the jungle stuff with just The Rock and Scott, and you may actually enjoy it.