September 26, 2003
By LIZ BRAUN - Toronto Sun
Is there such a thing as a thinking person's action/adventure movie? Probably not. On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with a pure adrenalin hit with good laughs, beautiful choreography and warp-speed camera work, and that would be The Rundown. All that -- and Christopher Walken at his loopy, rumpled best. The Rundown is big fun at the movies.
The Rock stars here as Beck, a retrieval expert. A retrieval expert seems to be a sort of bounty hunter with better moves. The movie begins with his polite attempt to take a Super Bowl ring from a large quarterback who has gambling debts. When good manners don't work, Beck calmly beats up an entire club full of large men. It's quite exhilarating, to tell you the truth.
His next job is to find a young man (Seann William Scott) who has run off to the Amazon jungle. It is not that tough to find the kid and grab him, but Beck must also tangle with revolutionaries, with evil mine owners (led by Walken), with a wild-eyed Scots pilot and with the forces of nature, which happen to include sheer cliffs, raging rivers and randy monkeys.
Entertaining? Times 10.
Everything about The Rundown is crisp and crackling with energy. The camera moves in a brisk and tricky fashion bound to please video-game addicts. And unlike similar outings in the genre, this one has a plot, watchable characters, a terrific script and large laughs.
Peter Berg, who directs, is also the filmmaker behind Very Bad Things and in his acting days starred with Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction; there's a hefty slice of dark edge to his humour, and it gives The Rundown a lot of its gusto.
Most of the fight scenes -- Beck tries never to use guns, you understand -- are balletic in nature, all graceful, complex moves. It's probably only the exaggerated, crunchy sounds of breaking bone and smashing furniture that keep one from confusing The Rundown with Swan Lake.
Above all, Berg has instructed The Rock to maintain a stony expression suitable to his name and reputation, and it works. It is not, however, the stony expression of a bristling action super-hero, but the stony expression of your patient but unimpressed older brother. As if to underline that difference, Arnold Schwarzenegger has a cameo right at the start of The Rundown, walking past The Rock and saying directly to him, "Good luck." Consider that torch passed, movie fans.
Time: 1 hour, 44 minutes
Director: Peter Berg
Stars: The Rock, Christopher Walken
-- LIZ BRAUN, SUN
Sun Rating: 4 out of 5