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The Rock gets a taste of the nasty side
of Nintendo when he points out to its
head CEO that not adding online
accessibility to its GameCube games
was a bad business decision.

The Rundown
Review written by: Alex Sandell

At the beginning of The Rundown, Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a three second cameo.  As Beck (The Rock) is walking into a nightclub, about to take part in the first of many rip-roaring skirmishes in the film, Schwarzenegger is walking out.  Schwarzenegger reassuringly pats Beck on the shoulder and tells him to "have fun." 

Exit the preeminent action hero of the end of the 20th Century and enter the paramount muscle-bound battler of the 21st.  This is a shrewd passing of the torch, and the first sign that The Rundown is a self-aware adventure film well-worth the price of admission.  It is nothing short of a miracle that this film turned out to be as good as it is. 

The Rundown didn't have a chance.  It was written by James Vanderbilt and R.J. Stewart.  Vanderbilt has already managed to fart out 2 out of 3 of the worst movies of 2003.  His film Basic was an eyesore and Darkness Falls was even worse. 

R.J. Stewart isn't much better.  Stewart has classics such as Major League II, Amazon High and Cleopatra 2525 to his name.  Yikes. 

Based solely on the combined works of Stewart and Vanderbilt, a case could be made that the two minds together would still be one brain cell short of a pair.  It is nearly inconceivable to think that there would be anything worth salvaging in a Stewart/Vanderbilt screenplay.

A master director could possibly come in and cull something good out of Vanderbilt's and Stewart's work.  Unfortunately, Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick are no longer taking calls.  Peter Berg did turn out to be available.

The only cinematic directing credit Berg had to his name, prior to The Rundown, was Very Bad Things.  The title of his directorial debut isn't exactly a Very Good Omen.  But not to worry!  He played Paulie Romano in the seminal 2001 comedy, Corky Romano.  What a "corker" that film was! 

So, by some cosmic fuckup as big as the hole in the Ozone layer, three of the least talented people working in Hollywood managed to get someone to back their movie.  And then who does this ragtag team pick to be the lead in their sure-to-be stinker?  The Rock. 

Now you see why The Rundown didn't have a chance.  But, by some miracle ungraspable by the relatively infinitesimal human mind, this movie did more than beat the odds - it beat no odds.  It took that chance it never had and turned it into a critically commendable 90 minutes of unadulterated action, adventure and comedy.  But how?

Maybe when enough crap comes together, it does turn into gold.  Maybe when you slap together a wide enough variety of hacks, you come up with the perfect filmmaker.  Maybe fortune does favor the foolish.  Maybe there were other forces (producers, actors, sound guys, weather) screwing up the earlier movies made by these individuals.  Maybe I should stop asking "how" it happened and start letting everyone reading this review know why The Rundown is the film they should be seeing this weekend.

There's a plot here.  There's character development.  There's some of the best choreographed fight scenes put on film over the past couple of years.  There's Sean William Scott as Travis, in his most unobtrusive role to date.  For the first time Scott really steps out of his role as Stifler and proves himself to be a solid comedic actor.  He also seems to bring out the best in The Rock.

The chemistry between the two leads in The Rundown feels genuine.  The Rock plays off of Sean William Scott's caffeinated personality to the degree where he actually appears to be forgetting that he's acting and instead is actually just letting it happen.  It doesn't hurt either actor that the villain of the film happens to be the formidable thespian Christopher Walken.  

Walken is excellent as the nefarious Hatcher.  There isn't a moment where the actor isn't winking at the audience.  He parodies himself perfectly in this movie and is as capricious a character as they come.  His speech regarding the tooth fairy is a monologue that would do the very best of Monty Python proud.  If you're not laughing by the end of it, someone should check your pulse. 

But the film is more than a comedy with a few fist-fights.  There are baddies with bullwhips, merciless men with machine guns, nut-jobs with knives, goons with guns and our hero Beck dodging all of them with some fancy stunt work and unnoticeable digital sleight of hand. 

Whenever an action sequence begins, the stunt work becomes the star of The Rundown and the computer's only job is to accentuate the job the star's doing.  You'll probably never notice the Computer Generated Imagery in this movie.  The action in front of you is a magic show.  You know what's happening on screen is humanly impossible, but there's rarely a time when it isn't believable. 

The most unbelievable thing in The Rundown isn't the dazzling feats of digital and human interaction.  It's the fact that the story has depth.  Although Walken portrays him as a cartoon character, Hatchet's actions show him to be a very bad guy.  He owns the jungle, he owns everything in the jungle, and, most importantly, he owns the diamond and gold mines that make him his fortune. 

Rosario Dawson is the film's leading lady, Mariana.  She's tough as nails and just may have an association with the rebels who are trying to reclaim their freedom from Hatchet.  Mariana is not your screaming heroine waiting for her man to come save her.  She's clever enough to take out both of her muscle-bound companions, Beck and Travis. 

The surprises don't stop with a darkly sinister bad guy and a strong leading lady.  The movie introduces the concept of slave labor to a target audience that has probably never even pondered it before.  Somehow I can't imagine a roomful of WWE fans discussing the ramifications of slave labor while sucking down hot & spicy Buffalo wings and guzzling gallons of beer.

The Rundown doesn't seem to care if it goes over the heads of some of its opening night supporters.  It gets rather detailed explaining the .65 cents the workers make per hour.  It explains how these workers are still slaves, even though they are being paid, being that they are forced to use the money they earn to rent the shovels and picks they use to dig up Hatchet's gold.

But the movie isn't an issue-driven film, by any means.  It's a film created to get the audience to stand up and cheer.  By the showdown at the end, the audience I watched the film with was laughing, clapping and having one hell of a good time. 

The Rundown is smooth over everything filmmaking.  It's fun, it's thought-provoking, and it is an absolute blast.  A tight little action-comedy fast enough to keep its audience hopped up on adrenaline throughout its runtime, and smart enough to leave them with something to talk about when it comes to an explosive end.

On a scale of 1-10?

8

What does this rating mean?  Everyone rates things differently.  Your "5" could be my "7," or vice-versa.  Find out what MY rating means by clicking here

Agree? Disagree? Feeling bored and wanna write a letter that you'll probably never get a response to?  Email me at alex@juicycerebellum.com 

Coming soon -- Reviews of Kill Bill, Mystic River and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre!

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Text (Copyright) 2003 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].