The Rundown review by Mike Long

As someone who grew up in the South, I've been exposed to "professional wrestling" all of my life, but have never given it much credence, either as a sport or as entertainment. Even as wrestling began to invade popular culture, I continued to ignore it, and the attempts of wrestlers to cross over into other pursuits. So, it wasn't the presence of The Rock which drew me to The Rundown, but rather despite his presence in the movie, I was willing to give it a shot, and found myself pleasantly surprised.

The Rock stars in The Rundown as Beck, "retrieval expert" (AKA bounty hunter), who works for a ruthless thug named Billy Walker (William Lucking). Beck's dream is to leave the "retrieval" business and open his own restaurant. Billy agrees to pay Beck a large sum and allow him to retire, if he'll do just one more job; Beck is to travel to South America and find Billy's son Travis (Seann William Scott). Beck makes his way to the Amazon, where Billy has been spotted in a mining town, which is overseen by the evil Hatcher (Christopher Walken). Beck locates Travis, who has been in the jungles searching for an ancient artifact known as the "Gato". Travis proves to be a slippery quarry, and soon Beck finds himself immersed in a chase through the jungle involving rebels and Hatcher's goons.

Playing as a mix of Romancing the Stone, Midnight Run, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Rundown is a serviceable and fun action flick. The opening sequence is well-done and draws the viewer into the film. Once Beck reaches the jungle, the movie offers many exciting action sequences, including a jaw-dropping fight scene with a group of jungle-based fighters. As is to be expected, Seann William Scott offers some nice comedy relief, but The Rock has some funny moments as well. In contrast, Scott handles his action scenes with aplomb, showing off more of the skills that he first revealed in Bulletproof Monk. And, as usual, Christopher Walken appears to be in his own little movie. But, it's The Rock who must carry the film, and he does a very good job. He can deftly handle the physical aspects of the character, but he also does well with presenting Beck as a man who doesn't really like violence and just wants to do his job. No, The Rock is no master thespian, but he is able to convey his emotions well, and the fact that English is his native tongue puts him ahead of forerunners like Schwarzenegger.

And while The Rundown is fun, it isn't perfect. Apparently, actor turned director Peter Berg suffers from the same issues that George Clooney had when making Confessions of a Dangerous Mind -- this is, he felt that he had something to prove. The Rundown is way over-directed. This style works in the opening scene, where Berg makes creative use of sports-TV-like graphics to introduce characters. But, one the story reaches the jungle, things get out-of-hand. The film is littered with shots of the jungle, lest we forget where the action is taking place. There is literally a shot of the jungle between each scene. And, if there's not a shot of the jungle, then there's one of Hatcher's men riding around in dune buggies. This turns what could have been a lean-and-mean 90-minute film into a 105-minute that drags at times. (But, I must say that I haven't seen Very Bad Things, so I don't know if Berg has done this before.) The Rundown is a decent action film that's worth checking out, as it's better than you think it'd be. It's not great, but one gets the feeling that if The Rock gets the right script, he could make a classic action film.

The Rundown flees onto DVD courtesy of Universal Home Video. The film comes to DVD in two separate releases, one full-frame and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was screened. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The video transfer is very good, as the image shows only a small amount grain and is very sharp. There is some noticeable artifacting at time, but these moments are brief, as is the small amount of edge enhancement. The movie features some dark scenes, especially the opening, but the action is always visible. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which sounds great. The dialogue is always sharp and clear, and the music sounds fine. The surround sound effects and the subwoofer action are fantastic, as they really punctuate the action scenes. The jeep wreck scene will make a nice home theater demo.

The DVD contains a jungle full of extra features, commencing with two audio commentaries. The first features director Peter Berg and star The Rock This is a fun commentary, which give the listener the feeling that these two bonded while making the film. The talk is very laid back, as Berg asks The Rock many pointed, and often silly questions about his character and the action in the film. They talk about the film's production and the other actors in the movie. The second chat has producers Kevin Misher and Marc Abraham, and isn't quite as good. Actually, it's much stiffer and, while it certainly delivers some good info, it's not nearly as fun. The DVD contains many featurettes. "Rumble in the Jungle" (11 minutes) examines the fight training and rehearsals that the actors went through, with comment from Berg, Scott, and The Rock. We get a good look at the film's locations in "The Amazon: Hawaii Style" (5 minutes). "Appetite for Destruction" (8 minutes) explores three of the biggest action scenes in the film, showing how certain shots were done to keep the actors safe. "The Rundown Uncensored" (6 minutes) is a very weird segment featuring animal trainer Kevin Keith and Kamila the Baboon. This is done in a faux-expose style and implies that Kamila got to work on the film because The Rock had fallen in love with her. Production designer Thomas Duffield discusses the construction of the sets in "Running Down the Town" (4 minutes) and "Walken's World" (5 minutes), which also explores Walken's character and performance. The DVD contains 8 extended and deleted scenes (shown as one continuous 13-minute reel) which don't really contain anything new, save for a deleted fight sequence and an extended version of the last scene. Finally, we have cast & crew bios.

7 out of 10 Jackasses

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