The Rundown | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Rundown 

Rumble in the Jungle

An enforcer named Beck (The Rock) is dispatched to the Amazon jungle to retrieve a crime boss' errant son, Travis (Seann William Scott). That what Beck really wants to do is open a small, upscale restaurant, and that Travis' absconding is a graduate-school dissertation gone off the rails, are just two of the amusing quirks in this action-comedy.

Beck finds Travis easily enough in El Dorado, a gold-mine company town run by the despotic Hatcher (Christopher Walken). Travis won't go quietly -- he's this close to unearthing a priceless native artifact. Hatcher wants the golden object, but so does the town's barkeep, Mariana (Rosario Dawson). Add a few of Hatcher's heavily armed henchmen and some jungle-based rebels looking to take back their land -- and yikes, there's trouble all right.

This second feature from Peter Berg (Very Bad Things) has a refreshing lack of the hit-first-quip-later style that has become so tiresome in actioners. Much of the humor here runs a little off-kilter: I was sure we were gonna zig, but suddenly we zagged. Berg cheerfully rips off obvious gimmicks from other sources including Robocop, Roadrunner cartoons, the Indiana Jones series and World Wrestling Entertainment. (With WWE Imperial Wizard Vince McMahon on board as executive producer, anything that smacks of SmackDown! is just fine.)

Andy Cheng, Jackie Chan's longstanding stunt collaborator, choreographed the fights, which are a cartoonish mélange of chop-socky and pro-wrestling acrobatics -- rapidly cut and heavy with whooshing-and-crashing sound effects. The Rock is a highly trained athlete -- he didn't get those muscles waiting for the bus -- and Berg might have slowed a few sequences down to let us see this powerhouse in some real action.

The Rock does look fabulous in a wet shirt and manages most of his line readings with easy good humor. His Beck is a reluctant hero, minus the posturing bravado, and it's fun to see The Rock play against type -- without, it should be noted, compromising his ass-kicking skills. Scott keeps Travis alternately annoying and funny, and Dawson shoulders the thankless task of straight man.

Sporting no muscles, grizzled pot-bellied veteran actor Walken steals the movie. His left-field rant about the tooth fairy is destined for the clip reel of hilarious Walken moments. Walken, who's currently riding a late-career wave of cool-with-the-kids, riffs effortlessly on his previous villain roles. Clearly he's having a swell time trading on his various acting tics and distinctive oddly punctuated dialogue. The Rundown is foot-flying fun, and may bump The Rock up the entertainment ladder, but only Christopher Walken can make off with a whole flick simply by saying "wow" and "ow."



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