The Rundown

2003, Movie, PG-13, 115 mins


WWE wrestling commodity Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson isn't much of an actor, but for a mountain of muscle he's a surprisingly charming screen presence. And his low-key appeal helps nudge Peter Berg's derivative but good-natured light action picture in the direction of breezy entertainment, rather than painfully noisy macho posturing. Beck (The Rock), a gun-hating leg breaker who really wants to run his own little Southern Italian restaurant ("nothing fancy," naturally), is indebted to bullying crime lord Billy Walker (William Lucking). Walker offers to stake Beck the $250,000 he needs to make his dream come true if Beck will just do one last job. The job, of course, is a special one: Beck must retrieve Walker's wayward son, Travis (Seann William Scott), from a hellhole of a Brazilian mining town someone had the temerity to name El Dorado (the working title of the film was "Helldorado"). El Dorado is ruled with an iron fist by mining magnate Hatcher (Christopher Walken), a contemporary Mr. Kurtz garlanded with the full panoply of Walken's unique quirks. Hatcher treats his workers like slaves and enforces his brutal authority with a small army of whip-cracking, pistol-packing goons. Abetted by Declan (Ewan Bremner), an eccentric Irish pilot and all-around jungle guide with an all-but incomprehensible accent, Beck quickly finds Travis, a smirking college drop-out with fantasies of being a modern-day Indiana Jones. But Travis has no intention of returning home, particularly since he thinks he's on the verge of locating a fabled golden cat idol — if that doesn't make him a star in the glittering firmament of archeological achievement, nothing will. Hatcher covets the idol, and so does Mariana (Rosario Dawson), a sultry bartender by day and take-no-prisoners revolutionary by night. Mariana hopes to sell the artifact and buy her people's economic freedom from Hatcher, who just wants the gold (cue the old-fashioned maniacal villain's laugh). Reluctantly entangled in the quest for the gato de oro, Beck captures and loses Travis, runs afoul of Mariana's rebels, gets worked over by Hatcher's goon squad, falls into jungle traps and is molested by self-abusing monkeys. This testosterone-fueled nonsense, penned by longtime Xena: Warrior Princess writer R.J. Stewart, started life as a Patrick Swayze vehicle before being retooled as a showcase for The Rock, whose fundamental geniality — which appears to be concentrated in one perpetually cocked eyebrow — ensures that its ludicrously excessive action sequences don't curdle into cynical brutality. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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