The Rundown (review)

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Rock Candy

You had me at hello, Mr. The Rock. You lost me later, sure, though it’s more the movie itself that lost me, not you yourself per se. But with the knowing twinkle in your eye that starts twinkling knowingly right at the outset and never stops, and the sly grin dazzling with all those supernaturally white teeth and the not-taking-this-too-seriously thing, you had me right then. The vibe works, the big-dumb-lug with smarts, with wit, with an inkling of class, with a surprising lightness and limberness that should be at odds with your imposing physical presence but isn’t. You’ve staked out a place for yourself on the Action Hero Spectrum that hasn’t been occupied in a while, maybe never, a happy medium between the manic insanity of the Bruce Willises and the Mel Gibsons and the leaden earnestness of the Steven Seagals. You’ve even got Arnold “Future President of the United States, and May God Have Mercy on Our Souls” Schwarzenegger metaphorically passing you the big-dumb-lug torch right there at hello, and that’s some funny stuff.

You’ve got It, Mr. The Rock, that indefinable, unbottleable, unfakeable movie star charisma. And it keeps The Rundown moseying along a lot longer than it deserves to. I mean, this umpteenth iteration of the standard Hollywood action-buddy-comedy-adventure may reasonably be defined thusly: 25 percent “Oh wow! That is like the coolest beginning of a movie ever!,” 50 percent “Kinda okay big middle chunk that’s not all that exciting, except for the monkeys. Monkeys are cool.,” and 25 percent “I totally can’t believe they ended it that way. Bummer, man.” And while you may not be able to save the ending, Mr. The Rock, honestly, it wasn’t just the monkeys that made that big middle chunk more than endurable. It was you, too.

But you deserve more, Mr. The Rock. Part of the problem is Seann William Scott (Bulletproof Monk, Old School). Guys with three first names are always suspicious to start with — did he steal yours? — but the real issue is that he is a black hole of charisma, sucking all the fun away. He is, to put it plainly, a moron. By which, of course, I don’t actually mean that Mr. Scott is a moron — I’m sure he’s a person of reasonably average intelligence — but that “the moron” is the persona he chooses to play even when it makes no sense. Like here. We’re supposed to buy that he’s some kind of archaeological genius who’s discovered an artifact of immense monetary value and significant cultural importance in the Amazonian backwater of Brazil when his Travis barely comes across as the kind of guy who knows how to read? Indiana Jones he’s not, and this ain’t Dude, Where’s My Artifact of Significant Cultural Importance That Belongs in a Museum? The Rundown tries to mine humor from his idiocy, and it all falls flat because it’s illogical in no way that makes humorous sense. It’s funny enough that his father sends you (The Scorpion King, The Mummy Returns) to retrieve him from Brazil and you both have amusing encounters with monkeys in the jungle while Travis is handcuffed. A better actor than Scott would have had a lot more fun with the handcuffed-in-the-jungle-with-monkeys thing. But Scott drags you down, Mr. The Rock. No more idiot sidekicks for you — you don’t need them to look good.

On the other hand, totally keep Christopher Walken (Gigli, Kangaroo Jack). If you weren’t enough to make this not-really-very-good movie worth seeing, Walken alone could maybe do it. And not in any way that detracts from you, Mr. The Rock. No, this is a symbiotic relationship, The Walken running on the bad-guy track parallel to you, playing right to his cult following that worships his every ironic aside and deadpan observation. This one, The Walken acknowledges, is for the fans. Stick with the likes of him, your Light Side of Snark against his Dark Side of Snark, and the result could be movie heaven. In fact, The Rundown loses a lot in that muddy middle when The Walken disappears for a long stretch and you’re left alone with Scott. You should have dumped Scott over a cliff and headed back to town to deal with The Walken.

But of course that was not your decision to make, which brings me to another point: Script choice. A gal can almost see exactly where the smart, clever bits written by Xena creator and writer R.J. Stewart leave off, and the not-so-smart, not-so-clever bits written by Darkness Falls‘ James Vanderbilt pick up. A gal can guess who wrote the last 20 minutes, which involve a complete and senseless betrayal of your character, Mr. The Rock. Even your charm cannot redeem this unconscionable treachery on the part of the filmmakers, which transforms the ending of the flick into something out of a direct-to-video Van Damme movie. And not one of the good ones, either.

You know what could redeem you, Mr. The Rock? Apart from a witty rematch with The Walken? You need to do a movie with Jackie Chan. Oh, please please please, do a movie with Jackie Chan, where you both fight at the beginning, and it’s hilarious because he’s little and you’re big, and then you become friends and save the world from drug dealers or terrorists or something, only you can’t stop picking on each other even though you’re crazy about each other in that masculine, buddy-comedy way. That would rock. Heh.

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