- Rated PG-13
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All photos © Universal
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
fter the disastrous "Mummy" spin-off that was “The Scorpion King,” it’s comforting to know that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s newfound acting career is alive and well. It’s all thanks to Peter Berg’s “The Rundown,” which finally marks the wrestler-turned-actor’s transformation into a full-fledged action star. Granted, he’s no Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone, but he does have one thing that those guys could only dream about: charisma, and he delivers it by the boatload in his latest Hollywood role. A fun action-comedy whose success hinges entirely on Johnson’s involvement, “The Rundown” might seem better suited for a summer release, but it probably would have just gotten lost amidst all the competition.
Johnson stars as Beck, a bounty hunter who dreams of opening up his own restaurant when he's finished paying off his debts to his employer. But before he can go straight, Beck is given one final assignment: bring the boss' son, Travis (Seann William Scott), back to America so that he can be punished for the trouble he caused before skipping town. Travis is a treasure hunter searching the Amazon for a golden idol called El Gato de Diablo (or The Devil's Cat), but he's not the only one in search of the lost artifact. The ruthless dictator (Christopher Walken) of the small Brazilian town also wants the idol, and he won't let Travis leave until he gets it.
Though the film is pretty uneven at times, it does serve up a number of fun action sequences, including an opening bit where Johnson takes on the entire offensive line of a college football team, and another where he must fight a tribe of acrobatic Brazilian rebels. Unfortunately, they both occur in the first half of the movie, and though Berg does his best to keep the story moving in between the various set pieces, it starts to drag a little when it becomes more about the search for the idol and less about Beck and Travis’ survival. Johnson’s performance is solid – an alluring mix of charisma, confidence and muscle, but with a vulnerability that makes him seem more human than the average action star. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of Scott, whose annoying character is essentially just Stifler with a beard.
Johnson does get good support from Walken, though, who’s an absolute riot as the villain. He’s really just playing a caricature of himself these days, but a hilarious rant about the Tooth Fairy to his Brazilian workers (only to then realize that they’ve probably never heard of the Tooth Fairy) is worth the price of admission alone. Even Ewen Bremner scores a few laughs as a Scottish pilot-for-hire, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is still Johnson’s show. It may seem like a gamble to place an $85 million dollar movie in the hands of an unproven leading man, but Dwayne Johnson saves the day with one of the most enjoyable surprises of the year.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
The original DVD release for “The Rundown” was a pretty solid disc, so Universal hasn’t made any drastic changes to the Blu-ray edition other than the enhanced video and sound. Two commentary tracks still headline the bonus material (with the one by director Peter Berg and star Dwayne Johnson the more enjoyable of the two), while featurettes on fight choreography (“Rumble in the Jungle”), stunts (“Appetite for Destruction”), and production design (“Running Down the Town”) make up a bulk of the behind-the-scenes material. Also included are a handful of deleted scenes (including a never-before-seen fight between Seann William Scott and Jon Gries’ characters) and a sneak peek of Christopher Walken at work.