The Rundown

Yes, this movie came out three years ago, but I missed it then and didn’t see it until two years later on video. I happened to catch it on cable the other day, and again I was reminded of how damned fun the movie is and decided to review it.

I grew up watching the action films of the late 1980s and early ’90s. This is generally considered a pretty good era for action movies, falling smack-dab in the middle of the Schwarzenegger Epoch. Movies like Commando and Predator are great guilty-pleasure classics, while Total Recall and Terminator 2 rise above the genre enough to mitigate some of that guilt.

Action movies in the 1980s tended to be military-based; in the ’90s we got a lot of police thrillers. What we didn’t get is the “adventure” action film—something that George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg had singlehandedly rejuvenated with the Indiana Jones films. Sure, we had a Romancing the Stone here and a Medicine Man there, but the adventure flick was quickly abandoned in favor of countless John Woo-style crime thrillers and science fiction flicks.

Of course, “adventure” films used to be the only type of action film there was—movies like King Solomon’s Mines. Movies with charming leading men, beautiful but still tough leading women, and exotic locations. That’s the sort of film we get with The Rundown.

If you’ve never seen it, go and rent it. If you demand a plot summary first, it’s this: the Rock plays a mob enforcer trying to get out from his contract with his mob boss. The boss agrees to free him if he performs just one last job: track down his son, who’s running around South America looking for a priceless ancient artifact. But there’s a problem: a corrupt businessman, played by Christopher Walken (who is allowed to run riot, acting-wise), is also after the artifact.

Really, I can only list the pleasures of this movie. There’s the Rock, a competent actor with great screen presence and an even better sense of humor, who plays a marvelous straight man to Sean William Scott. The Rock, unlike Schwarzenegger, understands exactly how to play the straight man, and more importantly, he seems to know it’s a better role for him than being the funny guy. (My friends and I are eagerly hoping that Blowback, a buddy flick starring the Rock and Ryan Reynolds as cops, gets made.) He also handles the action sequences with more aplomb than Arnie and finds just the right balance between taking it all seriously and keeping a touch of self-consciousness. What I’m saying is this: the Rock may not be the next Olivier, but he is the best action movie star I’ve ever seen. I’m no wrestling fan and I found The Scorpion King a little dumb, but The Rundown made me a lifelong fan of Mr. Dwayne Johnson.

Scott does a good job too. Like Keanu Reeves and Ashton Kutcher before him, Scott has escaped his initial second-banana role (in American Pie) to become the most successful star of that film. He’s a great foil for the Rock.

Other pleasures: the beautiful jungle scenery (El Dorado by way of Hawaii, but still beautiful). The beautiful Rosario Dawson. The guide with the incomprehensibly thick Scottish accent. The monkeys (“Get outta here, monkey!”).

And of course, Walken’s wonderfully insane acting. There is some seriously vintage Walken in this movie, which reaches a new peak with this diatribe:

I feel like a little boy who’s lost his first tooth, put it under his pillow, waiting for the tooth-fairy to come. Only two evil burglars have crept in my window, and snatched it, before she could get here…wait a second, do you understand the concept of the tooth-fairy? Explain it to them…wait. She takes the god damned thing, and gives you a quarter. They’ve got my tooth. I want it back.

The Rundown is easily my favorite action film of the last ten years. Or, heck, probably since Terminator 2. No, it’s not quite the classic like King Solomon’s Mines or The African Queen, but it’s the epitome of a good, fun action movie, and I hope the Rock is smart enough to make more like it.

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