Welcome to the Jungle Review

In Welcome To The Jungle, released in America as The Rundown and originally filmed as Helldorado (why didn't they just stick with that?), The Rock stars as Beck, a reluctant mob enforcer and wannabe chef who agrees to take one last job so he can afford to retire and open a restaurant. "Just twelve tables, nothing fancy", he shrugs. The job is to locate and bring home his boss's troublesome son, Travis Walker (Seann William Scott), who was last seen hanging around the Brazilian gold mining town of El Dorado. Beck hitches a ride deep into the rainforest with eccentric pilot Declan (Trainspotting's Ewen Bremner, putting on an accent I took for Northern Irish until he pulled out his bagpipes) and soon collars Travis in a bar. However, it turns out that the kid, a failed archaeology student, has discovered the whereabouts of a valuable golden idol, which is sought by both the despotic mine owner, Hatcher (Christopher Walken) and the local rebels. Despite their initial animosity, Beck and Travis find themeselves on the run and depending on each other to survive.

If The Scorpion King was The Rock's Conan The Barbarian, this is his Commando, a glossy, tongue-in-cheek adventure which doesn't skimp on the action but serves it up with a knowing smile. Its director, Peter Berg, who previously made Very Bad Things, does as good a job as could be expected. He keeps things rattling along, makes sure there are enough laughs that you can forgive the weak storyline, which is like Romancing The Stone without the romance, and most importantly, he stages a damn good fight. Welcome To The Jungle is also one of the best-looking films I've seen lately, courtesy of cinematographer Tobias A Schleisser, who provides some jaw-dropping shots of "the Amazon jungle" (really Hawaii). There's also some very nifty use of computer effects, such as the immense quarry teeming with slave workers and one truly eye-popping shot which starts as a close-up of a canoe, zooms back into a high aerial shot of the rainforest and zooms back down onto a convoy of trucks. Compare that to the ropey digitally-inserted helicopters in the Dawn Of The Dead remake.

Playing his first character who isn't a barbarian, The Rock proves himself more than capable. He has presence and charm and he can handle a funny line. Granted, he isn't given much competition from the rest of the cast. Christopher Walken does has a few good moments, although he's played so many villains now that the act no longer seems fresh. Rosario Dawson can't get past her miscasting as a rebel leader, Ewen Bremner can't get past his accent and Seann William Scott, who alternates from film to film between being hilarious and being annoying, is firmly in annoying mode here. Arnold Schwarzenegger also appears for a split-second, just enough time to growl, "Have fun" at the man who would be his successor. Will The Rock fill his boots? Possibly. He's proved his worth in throwaway B-movies, now he needs to take the next step and find himself an iconic role like The Terminator. If Welcome To The Jungle isn't in that league, it's decent enough to ensure he'll be back.

NOTE - Distributors Columbia-TriStar have elected to remove one and a half minutes from Welcome To The Jungle to secure a 12A certificate so The Rock's younger fans can see it. There's still enough violence left to make the film unsuitable for kids so it seems a dubious decision for more than one reason.

UPDATE 10/04/04 - Welcome To The Jungle has been classified for DVD and video by the BBFC with a 15 certificate and an identical length to the uncut Australian PAL DVD.



out of 10
Category Film Review

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