Click here 4 and a half stars

The Rock
surprises
with
fun actioner
The Rock

"The Rundown"

Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla

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Hollywood is in short supply of action stars these days, with the usual suspects getting long in the tooth, short at the box office or departed to other careers. But the search for new blood may have netted a real find in The Rock.

The Rock, Rosario Dawson, Seann William Scott

Christopher Walken
Wrestling star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was a success in "The Mummy Returns" and its spin-off, "The Scorpion King". Now he's cast in a more mainstream actioner, and the Hollywood powers-that-be are anxious to see if The Rock can open a movie that doesn't have a built-in audience.

With this material, he sure can. He plays Beck, a beleagured bounty hunter who really wants to be a chef. He does the bounty hunting gig to pay off a debt to a shady character (William Lucking) who arranges to clear Beck of all obligation and supply him with enough stake to open his dream restaurant if he can retrieve one last item: the gangster's son Travis (Seann William Scott) from the Amazon. Beck agrees to the deal.

With an incomprehensible Irish pilot named Declan (Ewen Bremmer), Beck arrives in a pimple of an Amazon town that's run by the nefarious Hatcher (Christopher Walken) as his own personal kingdom, brutally forcing imprisoned laborers to mine gold. Beck wants no part of this; he's just there for his man. However, Travis has actually found the location of a priceless treasure called El Gato. The local rebels want it to finance their fight against Hatcher; Hatcher wants it because he's greedy. Travis wants it to make his reputation.

The pair go into the jungle to find the item, accompanied by the beautiful bartender Mariana (Rosario Dawson). Along the way, they run into a pack of libidinous monkeys, combatative men of tiny stature with a predilection for vines, and an interesting fruit that gives the consumer a unique viewpoint.

It's hard to classify this; it could be a comedy with action, or an action film with comedy. Both sides of the equation work marvelously. The Rock is able to lampoon his own persona while enhancing it, and has plenty of acting chops. The time is not far off where he will be tackling roles that we wouldn't ever have associated with a pro wrestler.

Walken is, as always, worth the price of admission all by himself. A scene where he tries to explain the Tooth Fairy to a group of tribesmen is a classic.

Scott, best known as Stifler in the "American Pie" movies, is satisfactory as a second banana. He's smarmy and self-centered, but audiences can still empathize with him. Dawson is fast becoming a terrific leading lady, based on her work here and in "Men in Black 2."

Director Peter Berg also did a wonderful black comedy called "Very Bad Things." He deftly weaves the action and comedy elements into a cohesive whole, a much more difficult task than it sounds. He's an under-rated director who hopefully will have some higher-profile projects thrown his way after this one.

Had this been released during the summer, this would have been a massive hit. As it stands, it comes in under the radar (it didn't make my list of must-see fall films; as a matter of fact, a lot of critics wrote it off until they actually saw it) to be the movie that will bridge the summer blockbusters with the fall and winter hits. It's safe to say we can all smell what The Rock is cooking: stardom.

AT HOME OR AT A THEATER?
You can bypass the theatrical release and rent this one if you want; the movie won't suffer much by the reduction in screen size, but frankly you'll want to catch this one immediately; it's better than most everything out there.


See cast, credit and other details about "The Rundown" at Internet Movie Data Base.