a new king of action films. In the first two minutes of The
Rundown, the old king makes that abundantly clear. Yes,
Schwarzenegger himself anoints The Rock, and he has made a
stars as Beck, a "retrieval expert" who works for a loan shark
as a way of paying off his own debt to the sleaze. Every time
he completes an assignment for Walker (William Lucking), Beck
gets strung a little further along. Finally, he's offered
the deal that will free him: go to Brazil and retrieve Walker's
be an easy deal, but then, it wouldn't be much of a movie
if it were. Instead, screenwriter R.J. Stewart has thrown
in a little bit of Raiders of the Lost Ark to match
an echo of Midnight Run, as it seems that Travis is
close to finding a priceless tribal object: O Gatto Do Diablo,
The Devil's Cat. Made of pure gold and jewels, it could fetch
a fine price on the black market, lining pockets or freeing
the locals from bondage to Hatcher (Christopher Walken), who
works them in his gold mine appropriately named El Dorado.
(And indeed, the original title to the film was the perhaps
the too on the nose Helldorado.)
wants the cat but Beck. He has a job to do, and it can go
simply or, as he puts it, "…pretty much the opposite." Luckily
for us, it's the latter.
Peter Berg is a novice to the action genre, though his previous
film, the dark black comedy Very Bad Things, was full
of activity. The Rundown marks quite a change, and
Berg handles it well. Though some of the action here is sweetened
with digital effects, Berg lets the majority be live stunt
work. After all, The Rock should be used to it, and the director
gives him the chance to use his moves.
for a first-timer, Berg also manages to keep enough distance
that we can tell what's actually happening in a fight, even
though some get extremely complicated. Midway through, Berg
stages a particularly grueling sequence involving rebels,
led by Ernie Reyes, Jr., ganging up on Beck with such a dizzy
joy that you can only hope Spider-Man fights this well in
his next screen outing.
not wall-to-wall action. The script throws a few bones to
character development, though in the tradition of Eastwood's
Westerns, allowing less to be more. And The Rock is actually
good enough to handle it.
he's surrounded by talent to help prop him up if he falters.
As the drop-out student archaeologist, Seann William Scott
proves himself to have depth beyond the idiot characters he
used to establish himself. Travis may be out of his depth
and a little overenthusiastic, but Scott gives him a keen
intelligence that sometimes shows through the cockiness.
Dawson manages to keep herself from being wasted. As the El
Dorado bartender with a secret, she has fire without resorting
to being permanently p.o.'d. Yes, Michelle Rodriguez, I'm
talking to you.
course there's Walken. In homage to other Walken roles, no
doubt, Stewart has fashioned the veteran actor a few choice
bon mots and a couple of monologues made menacing by
his quirky rhythms. The actor could do this in his sleep,
and to be honest, practically does. But even a phoned-in Walken
would have compelling moments. Only he could make the line
"there's been an unexpected turn in the narrative" be taken
you've seen the trailer, you also know that there are monkeys
involved, which raises the film up a notch right there.
Rundown doesn't take itself too seriously, and for all
his stoic manliness, neither does The Rock. He endures a few
humiliations for the sake of our entertainment, but also makes
a believable man of violence.
pretend that The Scorpion King never happened, even
though it, too, had its moments. Call The Rundown the
beginning of great things from a new action hero, and a harbinger
of interesting work from a director who didn't know he had
it in him.