Welcome To The Jungle
The Rock plays a bounty hunter who heads to Brazil to retrieve his kingpin boss's son. But before long, the two must team up in order to escape hidden traps and obstacles the jungle throws their way.
Beck (The Rock) is a ''retrieval expert,'' someone who is paid to collect debts from deadbeats who don't pay up what they owe. Thanks in part to his physical prowess, he is great at what he does, but inside his hard-hitting physique is an aspiring chef: Beck occupies his time on stakeouts listening to Emeril, jotting down recipes and noting pertinent information about the characteristics of porcini mushrooms. He wants to get out of his present line of work and open a restaurant, but needs to (A) scrape together a lot of cash, (B) break his ties with a powerful kingpin and (C) ...there is no ''C.'' The Rundown faithfully follows The Final Mission Stratagem, the plot cliché in which the protagonist must perform ''one last job'' that will subsequently free him from his subjugator and allow him a crime-free existence. For Beck, this last task entails retrieving his boss's wiseass son Travis (Seann William Scott) from Brazil. But Travis isn't about to leave without a fight, especially since he's closing in on a prized artifact deep in heart of the jungle. Beck also has some competition, including Mariana (Rosario Dawson), a rebel leader posing as a downtrodden bartender, and Hatcher (Christopher Walken), a maniacal despot trying to control the region, who both need Travis to get to them the treasure.
What makes The Rundown more entertaining than other films of its genre are the wonderful performances by stars The Rock and Scott. The Rock, who made his feature acting debut in the limited role of the Scorpion King in the sequel The Mummy Returns, eventually received top billing in the trilogy's third installment, The Scorpion King--but his performance was marred by the shoddy dialogue. Here, The Rock gets to flex his acting and comedic muscles as well as the anatomic ones. In fact, moviegoers may be surprised at The Rock's range; he is convincing in the dramatic scenes, the action sequences and in his comedic banter with his co-star, Scott. Perhaps his training as the trash-talking WWE star--complete with signature moves like ''the People's Eyebrow'' (raising his right eyebrow)--makes him such a charismatic presence on the screen. Looking buffer than ever, Scott, best known for his role as Stiffler in the American Pie movies, also churns out a truly funny performance here as Travis. The chemistry between the two stars is obvious and the humor works because neither of them is trying to be over-the-top funny. The Rundown also includes good performances by Dawson and Walken-who brings a certain credibility to the film.
Actor turned writer-director Peter Berg (Very Bad Things) crafts a surprisingly entertaining actioner that delivers laugh after laugh. The adventure story, based on a screenplay by James Vanderbilt (Basic, Darkness Falls), is reminiscent of the Indiana Jones films-minus the xenophobic, imperialist, and misogynistic elements. Sure, it's formulaic, but there are enough surprise twists and turns to keep it interesting. Vanderbilt's script, unlike the rash of buddy pics that inundated theaters this past year, doesn't strays into race territory; the banter between The Rock and Scott, for example, has more to do with their differences in muscle mass than typical cultural innuendos and misunderstandings. What's more, the two stars transform the scripted comedy into hilarious physical slapstick. In one scene, Travis and Beck unsuspectingly eat a poisonous fruit (actually a chayote, but it works anyways) that temporarily paralyzes them, leaving the two to fend off advances from horny rain forest monkeys using menacing glares. Berg also does a fantastic job recreating this Brazilian jungle for the film, which was mostly shot on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, the Los Angeles Arboretum and soundstages in Van Nuys, Calif.
Director Peter Berg's The Rundown is an unexpectedly entertaining and well-executed action comedy carried comfortably by Seann William Scott and The Rock--who reveals his classy transition from WWE star to a charming and charismatic big-screen action hero.