Release: September 26, 2003
by Kevin Lang
I often make fun of my friends, who are twenty-five and still watch men in tights manhandle each other. I guess they enjoy the fake punches and crotch-grabbing of professional wrestling, which eventually turns into the wrestlers hoisting each other over one another's heads, as if to say, "Look at me! I love men." Okay, I've probably offended some of you. Don't worry, I'll admit, the weekly soap opera drama of The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) and the WWE can be enjoyable, and after watching "The Rundown" and having seen The Rock's character dive through the air, wrap his legs around another man's neck, and then throw the man to the ground, one couldn't help but enjoy the incorporation of a few good wrestling moves into the film, even if what I just described still sounded a little questionable.
All kidding aside, "The Rundown" was a fun action film that for once didn't have to try to look like "The Matrix" to be enjoyable. I liked "The Matrix," but almost every action film since has felt the need to either overuse wires or else clad its characters in leather. "The Rundown" reminded me more of the 1980's action movies that I grew up watching, where the action heroes like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone looked more like American football players than actors. "The Rundown" possessed the toughness and brawniness of these films, but it also incorporated good-looking martial arts and stunts as well. Keep an eye open for a scene where "The Rock" fights a group of "little people," who prove that size doesn't matter.
The story revolved around the Rock's character, Beck, who worked as a retriever, collecting on unpaid debts, and in the case of the story, retrieving a man's son, Travis, played by "American Pie" actor Seann William Scott. Beck traveled to Brazil to find Travis, who had been exploring the jungle, searching for a rare gold artifact. Beck encountered Hatcher (Christopher Walken), the slave driving builder of the local gold mining town. Hatcher prohibited Beck from taking Travis back home to his father, at least until Travis showed him the location of the precious gold statue.
The Rock and Seann William Scott were good together, and they provided many humorous moments, including one with a very friendly monkey. Joining them was Mariana, played by up and coming actress Rosario Dawson ("25th Hour," 2002). She wanted to use the gold statue to help liberate the suffering people of the mining town. Although there were no romantic developments between her and The Rock in the film, Rosario Dawson did have to kiss The Rock for her screen test.
For the film, The Rock did nearly all of his own stunts, which gave director Peter Berg and the rest of the crew the ability to shoot his character from any angle, such as at the end of the film when we see a close up of Beck as he dove through the air to knock out a concrete pillar. The extreme hillside tumble over a waterfall however, was one of the only stunts performed by his stunt double, who in fact ended up shattering his ankle during the stunt.
Director Peter Berg, who also directed 1998's "Very Bad Things" and has acted in such films as the skiing drama "Aspen Extreme" (1992), created a pleasing action movie that wasn't too far fetched to enjoy. Berg and stunt coordinator Andy Cheng managed to give the fight scenes their own unique style that looked better than most of today's action movies. I enjoyed The Rock in "The Rundown," and I wouldn't mind seeing him emerge further as an action hero, that is if he can get time off from the endless man-handling of his day job. Just kidding guys.
"The Rundown" Review written September 29, 2003, CTF.
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