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IN SHORT: A rockin' popcorn flick. [Rated PG-13 for adventure violence and some crude dialogue. 115 minutes]
The greatest difficulty in constructing a buddy movie in which the lead characters are antagonists is what we call the "flip-flop". The reason why the two sorta kinda enemies become sorta kinda best friends -- and stay that way. The films that pull off that trick, as long as the action is up to snuff, go down as "classics". The ones that don't, if the action is up to snuff, are dead on perfect as disposable dateflicks. Then there is a movie like The Rundown, which is better than the latter description and way shy of the former. We recommend it due to the sheer magnetic personality (and the ability to take a beating) of star The Rock which balances a more restrained than historically expected comedic performance by Seann William Scott (Stifler of the American Pie series).
It's also a good sign when an actor can take on what could be described as an unsavory role -- in this case The Rock plays "retrieval expert" Beck, whose job is akin to a collector or enforcer. Beck is in the employ of a bookie (or perhaps loan shark) named Billy Walker (William Lucking) and is a great character. Beck seems to abhor flat out violence. He won't carry or use a gun and he always offers his target a choice of how to respond to polite requests to pay up. Choice a) pay up. Choice b) Get busted up and then pay up.
Just because Beck doesn't like to fight doesn't mean he can't. As for the gun thing, well, this ain't college. And, hey, it's The Rock. You know what you expect from the man going in and he doesn't disappoint.
As for his character, Beck would rather be running a restaurant. It is hinted that he's also in deep to Billy, who makes an offer Beck can't refuse. He'll get his restaurant plus a quarter of a million dollars fee, if he'll journey to Brazil to find and retrieve son Travis Walker (Seann William Scott) a scrawny would be Indiana Jones type archeologist seeking an ancient artifact called "el Gato del Diablo" -- a solid gold "devil monkey" worth, conservatively, $15.6 millions. What exactly the relationship between father and son is like is so poorly laid out that, when everything hits the fan in the third act, the resolution feels forced. By the time that comes about, though, the film is just about over so it doesn't really matter.
Travis is known to search in the jungles near the town of El Dorado. There, the natives slave in the gold mines run by overlord Hatcher (Christopher Walken) who has fortified the area against attacks from a rebel band. The sole bar in town is run by the lovely Mariana (Rosario Dawson). The dirt streets are ruled by wandering cattle. The jungles are thick enough to blot out the sky and the monkeys are horny.
Yep. The Rock takes on bad guys and a pack of horny monkeys. There ain't nothing like that in the WWE. . . <vbg>
Remember, this is a buddy-buddy action comedy. As an action only flick it would run a poor second to every other by the book generic get out of the jungle/ desert/ forest before the overlord can catch you and steal the gold movie story. Even with all that spilled, whether or not The Rundown works depends on the pace and the chase and the interaction of the three principals. The Rock wisely leaves all the acting to his co-stars. He's slowly growing as an actor and hasn't bitten off anything more than he can chew. Adding comedy to the tough guy that was his stock in trade is a good second step . Walken continues to deliver the best bad guy type in the biz. Whether or not there actually is a gold devil monkey and who winds up with (and how they wind up with it) is all icing on the cake.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Rundown, he would have paid . . .
The Rundown is definitely entertaining. It is. It didn't have us or our audience cheering when the good guys, as they inevitably do, wins out. Everybody was smiling, which is as good a reason we know to buy the large popcorn and settle in for the ride.
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