October 2, 2003

The Rundown

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Fine, I admit it; I am secretly a movie profiler, often letting first impressions get the best of me. In fact, the first time I saw the trailer for The Rundown, I was prepared to dismiss it and perhaps flavor my disdain by laughing in a mildly mocking manner. Other than the “Stifler in the jungle” premise that I was initially struck by, the film suffered from traditional title ambiguity (isn’t “rundown” an adjective?). Hoping that it would be at least be somewhat salvaged by a trademark Christopher Walken villain, I approached the theater, snippy remarks in tow, ready to do my worst.

So like, wow. That movie rocked. Remember when action was hard hitting? Remember the days when miniscule gadgets that could at the same time fire deadly bullets and double as a cappuccino machine were dismissed in lieu of a nice, solid punch to the jaw? I really don’t, but this movie sure does! The action is tight, fast-paced, and exciting just like a fulfilling adrenaline rush should be. Director Peter Berg paces the film fluidly and its speed reaches a level of perfection that maximizes audience stimulation.

Berg styles the film in a colorful, fun way that pops in its absurdity. Taking full advantage of every action movie staple, the film is flavored with sweeping scenery shots as well as slow motion strutting of all heroes. There is no heavy reliance on high tech gadgetry in this jungle and Berg builds his story on this gritty, down-to-earth environment with an Indiana Jones-esque charm.

Like the Kipling-esque “law of the jungle” often associated with its Amazon setting, the film has a simple premise that doesn’t try to use audience confusion as a decoy to mask lack of plot. First impressions are very important in old school action movies, where last names are synonymous with “uncool,” and the first time we are introduced to Beck (The Rock), he is busy performing his duties as a “retrieval expert.” With a polite, no gun attitude, Beck is excellent at his job and his next assignment is to retrieve Travis, (Sean William Scott), errant son of his employer, from the Amazon where he has apparently “pissed off the wrong people.”

However, when Beck gets on the scene, he realizes that “the wrong people” really equates to “the wrong person” and the person in question happens to be Hatcher (Christopher Walken), corrupt overlord of the Brazilian town Travis currently inhabits. Throw in ancient artifacts, elaborate scenery, run of the mill bad guys, and an exotic beauty named Mariana (Rosario Dawson), and you basically have The Rundown.

Scott is effective as a form of comedic alleviation to counter The Rock’s brawn but the two also share a chemistry that gives certain scenes that extra zing. Dawson is the final member in the triad of heroes and gives the film a touch of sobriety. However, it is Walken who ultimately makes The Rundown complete. Portraying Hatcher with the patented Christopher Walken style, he is quirky yet logical, calm yet vicious.

With supporting parts skillfully portrayed by The Rock’s biceps, Scott’s pecs, and Dawson’s cleavage, all of which happen to be chronically wet and gleaming thanks to the convenient jungle setting, you will never be bored. A fun and fulfilling feast for all of your senses, the film is instant gratification at its best, and that, my friends, is the rundown.

Archived article by Tracy Zhang