Action movies are a tricky genre. When they manage to be creative,
fast-paced, and pulse-pounding, there is nothing quite like the experience
of watching them. When they are sluggish, brainless, and unexciting,
they can be a very bad thing, indeed. "The Rundown" falls into the
latter camp with a thud. It is a black hole of nothingness that is
not only hackneyed, but also mindnumbingly boringa cardinal sin of
any genre film that isn't doing its job well.
Beck (The Rock) is a tough guy retrieval expert who yearns to get
out of the business. When his boss hands him his latest mission, the
stakes are suddenly heightened. If Beck can travel to Brazil and bring
back his boss's rebellious son, Travis (Seann William Scott), he will
be able to put this career behind him and become the chef he has always
dreamed of being. Retrieving Travis turns out to be harder than expected
for Beck, who is forced to chase him through the Amazon as he locates
a hidden artifact worth a fortune. As Beck chases Travis, so does
the tyrannical Hatcher (Christopher Walker), who wants the artifact
for himself, and local bartender Mariana (Rosario Dawson), who sees
it as a means of freeing her people from borderline-slave labor laws.
Director Peter Berg, whose last film was 1998's pitch-black delight
"Very Bad Things"a foreboding title of projects to come if I ever
saw onehas seemed to regress as a filmmaker in the last five years.
"Very Bad Things" was ballsy, quirky, and imaginative in a most gleefully
perverse way. "The Rundown" is none of these things, a dreary, trite
wannabe-adventure that would be right at home as a direct-to-video
release, but is just plain painful in the confines of a movie theater.
Wrestler-turned-actor The Rock has undeniable charisma. It was glimpsed,
but not taken advantage of, in 2002's "The Scorpion King," and it
is on hand again here. His Beck has potential: he is a muscled, handsome
man with a talent for cooking who has wandered into the wrong business.
Unfortunately, nothing is done with this interesting character trait,
and a running gag where he continuously tries to finish writing the
word "mushroom" in his recipe notepad is completely forgotten about
in the second half and offers no payoff. As the wily Travis, Seann
William Scott (2003's "American Wedding") is his usual jackass self,
which is to say that this kind of role is getting old very fast for
him. And as has depressingly become the case more often than not in
recent years, the talented Christopher Walken (2003's "Kangaroo Jack")
slums it as the heavy while cashing an easy paycheck.
Save for one awesome shot which starts out over a boat on a river
before lifting into the air, over the jungle, and back down over a
jeep driving on a dirt path, "The Rundown" is exempt of a single original
flourish. Its action scenes, which are mostly of the wrestling variety
with some weapons thrown in for good measure, are technically passable
but do nothing to get the viewer's adrenaline going. The rest (read:
exposition scenes) are overlong and overpopulated. Tellingly, "The
Rundown" takes roughly 45 minutes to get going, and when it does it
only picks up to a halfhearted crawl. The Rock may be the next major
action star, but he's going to have to make some smarter career choices
if he ever plans on appearing in a watchable motion picture.
Copyright © 2003 Dustin Putman