Film Reviews: Wednesday, September 24, 2003
The Rundown
Starring The Rock and Seann William Scott. Directed by Peter Berg. Written by R.J. Stewart and James Vanderbilt. Rated PG-13.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Rumble in the Jungle

The Rock rolls down a mountain in the knockabout action-comedy The Rundown.

By KRISTIAN LIN

The transition from pro wrestler to Hollywood star isn’t easy — Hulk Hogan was in a position to do it 10 years ago, but he was unlucky enough to come along while Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme, etc. were ruling the roost. He also had terrible taste in material — remember Suburban Commando or Mr. Nanny? By contrast, The Rock comes along at a fallow time for male action stars, does a much better job than Hulk Hogan of choosing projects, and has the ability to make fun of himself. That last thing is crucial; it’s a quality that Vin Diesel lacks entirely and that Ben Affleck has to strain mightily to achieve. With his easy smile and ironic attitude, he comes off as a regular guy who somehow wound up with a gigantic, muscled body, and his act is awfully charming. His latest film is good enough to bode well for his second career. (Pro wrestlers with second careers seem to be big these days — major props to Mick Foley on writing his first novel.)

In The Rundown, The Rock plays Beck, a collection agent for a mob boss (William Lucking). Beck dreams of opening his own restaurant, but before that happens he has to do One Last Job, bringing his boss’ son Travis (Seann William Scott) back from Brazil to pay up his gambling debts. However, Travis has fallen afoul of a Kurtz-like American mining magnate (Christopher Walken) who’s using the local Indians for what amounts to slave labor. Beck and Travis wind up running for their lives through the Amazon jungle. There’s a buried treasure and Rosario Dawson with a barely-there Brazilian accent involved, too.

Director Peter Berg (the all-too-aptly named Very Bad Things and the brilliant, short-lived tv series Wonderland) mostly sticks to the accepted template for these kinds of movies, though he does a few outré things. During a prologue in L.A., Beck scopes out a nightclub filled with partying NFL players, and graphics appear on the screen as if the players are in a game. Berg also does a kooky funhouse-mirror effect on people’s faces when Beck and Travis accidentally ingest some fruit with mood-altering properties. In most of these films, the hero takes a certain amount of abuse and keeps on ticking, but here Beck absorbs so much damage that it becomes funny. He falls out of trees, gets attacked by monkeys, takes a beating from a tribe of short-statured Indians, and rolls down an impossibly steep mountainside with Travis (the movie’s most entertaining set piece). All of which makes this a movie that’ll go over well with pro wrestling fans who love this kind of knockabout violence. For the rest of us, The Rundown’s rude energy and The Rock’s magnetism make it a pleasantly empty-headed diversion.


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