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THE RUNDOWN

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: The Rock, Seann William Scott, Christopher Walken, Rosario Dawson, Ewen Bremmer
Director: Peter Berg
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Universal
Features: See Review
Length: 105 Minutes
Release Date: March 23, 2004

"For what it's worth…I hope you enjoy the fall."

"What fall?"

"THIS FALL!!!"

Film ***

The Rundown offers the best, most explosive and highly charged piece of action entertainment of recent memory, ranking only in second to Bad Boys II. It announces the arrival of The Rock as the next big thing in the action genre. The wrestling champ has the stuff for such a position. He's got the perfect physique, a sharp wit, and boy can he ever whoop some ass. In addition, to have him play alongside the antics of sidekick Seann William Scott and the bizarre genius of Christopher Walken, and you've got quite a memorable action comedy ride--the kind which requires seatbelts.

The Rock plays Beck, a bounty hunter employed by a crime boss who hunts down various individuals to issue warnings and retrieve collateral, etc. The opening scene, where he enters a nightclub to pursue an NFL player who's failed to pay a bad debt, is nothing short of a perfect setup to show just how tough and good in the hardest of fights Beck is. As the football player has his fellow teammates have Beck tossed out, he retaliates quickly, taking down the entire defensive line, in addition to making handy use of a DJ's record player.

Beck is tired of his profession. He wants out of it with hopes of starting his own legitimate business. His boss agrees to the decision, but only if Beck does one last job for him. And trust me when I say that it won't be the easiest assignment. He is asked to venture to the Amazon to bring back his boss' son. The young man is Travis Walker (Seann William Scott) who has taken refuge in the town of El Dorado. When Beck and Travis meet up at a local bar, the feeling is far from mutual.

Travis, as it turns out, is in pursuit of a priceless artifact that is also of interest to the town's evil tyrant, Hatcher (Christopher Walken). Hatcher pretty much has all of El Dorado in his pocket, as the citizens of the town have been reduced to slave labor. Also wanting to recover the artifact is the local bartender, Mariana (Rosario Dawson), but for an entirely different reason than the other two.

After a few unsavory encounters with unsavory townspeople, as well as some of Hatcher's henchmen, Beck has Travis in his clutches. That is, until Travis causes a diversion that isn't the least bit slight. In fact, it's a hill side that looks as if it runs at least ten miles long. Because of this, the two are stuck with each other in addition to being completely lost in the jungle, with Hatcher and his men in hot pursuit.

It's at this point where The Rundown ventures into many scenes of laugh riot inducements. The sight of Travis having the guts to even attempt to challenge Beck to a fist fight is funny on its own. Soon afterward, the two are caught in a trap, causing them to hang upside down. And as if that wasn't enough, Beck is then faced with his most daring physical challenge, fighting off an eager to please baboon.

One doesn't attend a showing of a movie like The Rundown expecting something dramatic and heavy or anything that wins awards, well except maybe for a possible MTV Movie Award. They expect just what something like The Rundown delivers. Director Peter Berg, whose previous effort, the disturbingly funny Very Bad Things, got a huge mistreatment from critics. Switching gears here, completely, Berg qualifies himself as a genuine action movie director. He fuels his action with a heavy dose of required frenetic edits and sharp as a blade camera angles to assist in letting The Rock do what he does best.

Another asset to appreciate about The Rundown is the way it tries to do things a bit differently. For instance, Beck is not a fan of guns. He doesn't use them because they take him to a bad place that isn't worth going. It's hard to find a character like that in an action movie. When the big action standoff climax comes into play, Beck is forced to take up a weapon, or two, and it is clear that when he does have a gun, the opposition doesn't stand a chance.

Then, there's Christopher Walken, one of the few actors in the world who can walk into a scene and steal the movie. Walken's brilliance cannot be easily described; it just has to be seen. The mixture of insanity, humor and bewilderment is one only someone like Walken can deliver perfectly simultaneous. Lately, Walken has managed to squeeze in a speech in each of his movies that are so eccentric and mind boggling, you wonder how he came up with the words. Here, it’s a scene where Hatcher, having just lost track of the two men he's been chasing, compares his debacle to that of a boy who's lost his first tooth to give to the tooth fairy. Mind you, he's explaining this to a group of locals who can't speak a lick of English. The sight and sounds of Mr. Walken in this film are nothing short of priceless.

The Rundown is the pure epitome of everything that makes a perfect action comedy. Two mismatched sidekicks, a memorably insane villain, mind blowing stunts and action sequences, and a breathtaking location to have it all play out. With this movie, it's clear proof that The Rock is as of the now, the next big action hero of the movies.

BONUS TRIVIA: Look closely in the opening nightclub scene for Arnold Schwazenegger, who sarcastically says, "Have fun" to Beck as he passes him by.

Video ****

Universal has delivered a pure showstopper here. The anamorphic picture is top flight, sharp as a blade picture quality right from the start, and never letting up for a second. All sequences are handled extremely well, whether in the bright outskirts of the Amazon to the bold in-your-face crispness in the early nightclub sequence. There isn't a single moment in the presentation that can be the least bit regarded as a flaw, as shot after shot resembles pure visual beauty, with a strong sense of image detail. A full screen version is available separately, but as always, you're better off with this format.

Audio ****

The sound on this disc is a hundred percent fully charged right from opening frame. The 5.1 audio track is as explosive as any sounding disc can get, and it adds up to possibly the best audio presentation since that of Bad Boys II. The range amongst the channels is frequent and consistent throughout, with everything from dialogue to punches and jabs to gun battles to explosions sounding delivering on equal levels, especially on the part of the action, which will rock your sound system good by itself.

Features ****

As far as extras go, this is Universal's first great offering of the year, as they were off to something of a slow start. Featured on the disc are two commentary tracks; one with The Rock and director Peter Berg, the second with producers Marc Abraham and Kevin Misher. Also included are a slew of featurettes, each of which dig into different aspects of the production. "Rumble in the Jungle" explores the fight choreography, "The Amazon: Hawaii Style" covers the process of transforming Hawaii into The Amazon, "Appetite For Destruction" explores the visual effects that went into the action sequences and explosions, "Running Down the Town" depicts the creation of the town of El Dorado for the film, and "The Rundown Uncensored" depicts the behind the scenes ruffle between The Rock and his baboon co-star. Lastly, there are deleted scenes and a very special bit entitled "Walken's World".

Summary:

The Rundown is in the classic action comedy tradition of such classics as Midnight Run and 48 Hrs., with a superb mixture of action, character and comedy, not to mention the big screen presence of the new action hero of cinema, The Rock. It's one to simply sit back and have an explosive good time with.