The Rundown Review
Wrestlers acting in movies…. it never really works does it? The world of cinema has seen what the big brawn men can bring to the table and the results have been kind of degrading. WWE wrestling legends Hulk Hogan and Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura have been in films, mostly in supporting roles, but never have shown the charisma to actually make their acting work. You think they get the picture after Hulk Hogan teamed up with those Three Ninjas to stop evil in a very cringe worthy fashion. Now after the film disasters that wrestlers have made, another wrestling legend is having his shot at the big time in acting.
The Rock, or Dwayne Johnson if you want to use a real name for him, has had small exposure to the big screen. His cameo in The Mummy Returns gave him little to do since he was only in the first five minutes waving a sword about before being replaced by a CGI look-alike. However, that was enough to get him a big starring role in The Scorpion King - the spin off from The Mummy Returns. It showed potential but not many people were impressed. But it hasn’t stopped The Rock who’s taking the lead in his potential breakout movie, The Rundown. Known to the UK as Welcome to the Jungle, it’s been out long enough to grant its DVD release in the U.S.
The Rock plays Beck, a tough bounty hunter. However, Beck is a man who likes to play things safe. He’s not someone who loves to kick ass during his job, instead he tries to be reasonable and give people a chance to make the easiest choice. He truly detests violence but if it has to be done, it has to be done. After reluctantly braining a whole American Football offence team in order to recover money for his boss, he believes it’s time to call it quits and get a new life in which he wants to open a restaurant. Sadly, it’s not that simple.
For Beck to leave his job, he has to do one last job. This involves going to the town of Helldorado in the Amazon jungle, and bring back the boss’ son, Travis (Seann William Scott) who’s hiding and keeping low after causing problems back in America. Not liking the new tropical environment he’s in, Beck wants to get in and out with Travis in as little time as possible. Unfortunately, it’s never easy as the cocky Travis doesn’t want to go back to America, he wants to go and find a priceless gold statue known as the ‘Gatu’ deep in the Amazon with bar keeper Mariana (Rosario Dawson).
If this wasn’t complicated enough, local mining boss and ruthless psychopath Hatcher (Christopher Walken) is laying claim to Travis as he himself wants the mystical ‘Gatu’ statue and is not going to let Beck leave. After giving a beating to Hatcher’s men and running off, Beck intends to quickly get out of the town as soon as possible with Travis. However, Travis being his stupid and cocky self manages to get both he and Beck thrown deep into the jungle…literally. As they are pursued by Hatcher and his men, the two are going to have to get along if they want to survive getting killed by Hatcher, the jungle, rebels, vicious monkeys and each other.
The Rundown has to be one of the guiltiest pleasures I’ve seen in a while, definitely the first in 2004. The film is no grand action classic but it delivers fine entertainment. Director Peter Berg has somehow crafted what could have been considered a rather plain action buddy film into something that is very unique. I really admire how this film is edited in certain scenes, mainly the action and the odd ‘Beck Sense’ sequence which bring together a montage of shots with added effects for visual flare. As for the action scenes, instead of being formalistic, Berg tries something different and they become so over the top and fast paced that they are an utter joy to watch – especially Beck Vs The Tarzan Martial Arts Rebels.
Another welcome change is a hero who doesn’t like to use violence in the form of The Rock’s character Beck. Most hero characters in an action film would use violence without batting an eyelid but in The Rundown, our hero tries to use very little violence but ultimately has to fight back to save the day. He always tries to offer an easy way out of arguments but they usually end up going the wrong way which he doesn’t like. While this is a breath of fresh air for the action film genre, it has faults. It’s never made clear why he doesn’t like guns in particular and this acts therefore as a bit of a plot hole near the end. A good premise for our hero in The Rundown but it needed tightening up for The Rock’s character.
As for The Rock, The Rundown shows very clear signs of him succeeding in his acting career as this film works for him. He’s got charisma, he’s got style and he is an up and rising action star to be watching. Why I’m mentioning this is because of the whole Governor Arnold scene at the beginning of the film. It indicates strongly that The Rock could be the next action star as he supposedly takes the torch from Arnie. The Rock could blow it on the next film but for this one, he suits being the hero just fine.
The supporting cast deliver good performances all round but are nothing special. Seann William Scott plays another cocky guy role well but this time is far from the sex crazy character of Stifler in American Pie; maybe it’s a sign of him maturing. Rosario Dawson works well as the mysterious female character adding some toughness to show she isn’t all soft and cuddly. And not forgetting Christopher Walken who hams it up in his role as the villainous Hatcher who oozes a sinister charisma in almost every scene with his bizarre rants over the tooth fairy.
Overall, The Rundown works very well as an entertaining piece of action, adventure and comedy filmmaking. It has a great lead in the form of The Rock and a visual style that is very unique to the genre. Going way over the top with action and working as the roller coaster ride it should be, The Rundown is great fun.
Video and Sound
The Rundown comes to DVD sporting a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that has no major problems to speak of since it's pretty much perfect. If I had to point anything out it would be the overly strong colour scheme that while giving off that South American feel. It just makes you think that all the actors have sunburn.
For its soundtrack, the film comes with a 5.1 Dolby Digital offering that does the action justice. It uses the surround speakers well when it comes to gun fire and atmospheric shots while dialogue is always very clear.
Universal have put together a good set of features for The Rundown.
Commentary by The Rock and Director Peter Berg
The headline actor and his director watch the film together to discuss their experiences and thoughts on the final version. It is full of silly humour as the two like to mess around here. They do discuss a lot of key 'minor' points like how they managed to drag the Governor of California into the opening of the film and how they managed to get a porn star into the film as well. It's not deeply insightful stuff as they like to mess around but it's good for everyone who likes to hear The Rock speak.
Commentary by Producers Kevin Misher and Marc Abraham
This is the more sensible and insightful commentary that The Rock and Peter Berg didn't quite deliver. The producers are full of details explaining what happened behind the scenes from making sure the film got the correct rating in the U.S and having to meet and work with Christopher Walken. If you are looking for more details on the making of The Rundown, it is best to listen to this commentary track.
We are given several deleted and extended scenes from the film, the stand out of which is a deleted scene with The Rock and Ewen Bremmer taken out of the plane journey when the engines cut out in the air and it drops. It's always nice to see what didn't make the film - even if it's a long mud fight.
Rumble in the jungle
The Rock and Sean William Scott show us how to fight in this segment looking over the work required by the two male leads in order to complete the films action set pieces. Though it is slightly over the top with high praise from the stunt co-ordinator this is a good enough featurette showing how The Rock gets his tail kicked by people almost half his size.
The Amazon, Hawaii style
This featurette shows us how Hawaii substituted for South America. It wasn't a good idea for Berg and his crew to film The Rundown there since they got robbed during their scouting time in South America. Instead, they opted for the more friendly country of Hawaii.
Appetite for destruction
How does a film crew manage to destroy a village? Well it's all explained here in this featurette looking at some of the bigger action sequences that occur in the film's finale. Despite a short running length, the featurette takes a good look over the preparations of the stunts and the explosions. It would have been nicer to have this segment a little longer but at least it's covered to fit in with the standard DVD package.
The Rundown: Uncensored
Now this is one of those silly features that makes no sense and has something to do with the scene where the monkeys attack The Rock and Seann William Scott in the film. The Rundown Uncensored tells the tabloid tale of The Rock's apparent relationship with a female baboon called Camilla. It's a fun and strange tale (which I believe is not true!) of The Rock's far from usual love of his baboon co-star. E's True Hollywood Story eat your heart out!
Just for all you Christopher Walken fans there's a small 5 minute segment all about the actor's involvement with The Rundown. It's mostly behind the scenes footage of Walken giving advice on how he feels he wants to do the scenes - especially ones around the finale. It's a nice little tidbit for all who love Walken.
The Rundown succeeds on what it sets out to be. A great action adventure romp that is thoroughly enjoyable on all levels. The Rock makes a great lead and hopefully things will start to pick up for him on his acting career. As for the DVD, it's a nice package with enough to quench anyone's thirst for more Rundown fun after the credits run. Enjoy.