Bungle in the Jungle
Just when I thought Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was on a roll because of his memorable action-hero turn in The Scorpion King, the camera almost defeats him in The Rundown. Again and again he flies through the air in slow motion, then lands with a loud THUMP. In between slo-mo and thumps, his most dramatic activity involves a stare. Granted, this former pro-wrestler does have one of the best stares in the business. Still, it's up to co-star Seann William Scott to pick up the pace. Playing an adventurer trying to elude The Rock's character, who is assigned to bring him back from the Amazon jungle, Scott adds welcome humor to an action flick overburdened with flashy camera tricks and lengthy fight sequences.
Although Beck (The Rock) would rather be running a restaurant than cleaning up messes for his boss, he agrees to one more job. (What an original idea!) He doesn't like fighting -- but usually wins when that's the only option left. Travis (Scott) shouldn't be much trouble for him. He's certainly no physical threat, despite his very funny "getting ready to fight" routine.
Who knew so many obstacles would stand in the way? There's Hatcher (Christopher Walken), a demented mine owner who thinks he owns the jungle. And Mariana (Rosario Dawson), a local bartender, knows more than she's willing to tell. In addition, our buffed-up hero must deal with challenges from horny monkeys, fierce tribesmen, hallucinogenic fruit, and the dangerous jungle itself.
Walken (Catch Me If You Can) portrays the evil Hatcher like someone from another planet who watches others suffer with a puzzling interest and smirking pleasure. I'm always amazed at the way this actor's unique voice inflection makes even such simple words as "Ouch" stand out. Because of amusing performances by Walken and Scott (Final Destination), The Rundown emerges as a fun movie to watch while these two appear on screen. And, I suppose, the action sequences will satisfy most fans of this genre. For me, those scenes held little enjoyment -- just more loud noises combined with slice-and-dice editing and cinematography.
Don't get me wrong, I love good action flicks like The Mummy and Raiders of the Lost Ark. However, only one sequence in The Rundown came close to giving me the kind of action thrills I admire -- a long tumbling fall down a mountain by the two main characters. Although, as in Raiders, a valuable artifact plays a key role here, neither main character projects a charisma comparable to Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones. I'm expecting too much, you say, because nobody does. Hmm. Good point.
(Released by Universal Pictures and rated "PG-13" for adventure violence and some crude dialogue.)
Read a Q&A with The Rock and director Peter Berg and "Rock the Action Genre" in the ReelTalk Features section.