The Rundown (2003) — Overhyped, under-delivered

“Establish dominance! Establish dominance!”

PoolMan’s rating: I’ll give you two options. Option A: you don’t see this movie. Option B: I MAKE you not see this movie.

PoolMan’s review: I’ll say it here and now: I don’t get it.

We here at the hallowed halls of the Mutant Reviewers are very, very well known for our dislike and distrust for “mainstream” critics. After all, our motto for years was “Siskel and Ebert Give Us Hives,” at least until dear Gene Siskel was taken to the Great Popcorn Bowl in the sky. To this day though, that has never left me. Sometimes, you just have to look at a movie, look at a professional review of it, and just shake your head and go “BUH?” But hear me well: I swear to Jobu that somebody went and paid half the critics in Hollywood to give a positive, nay, glowing review of The Rundown. My only problem with this is that it’s just not that good. Hype, thy name is Dwayne.

Okay. So here’s the basics. WWE’s The Rock finally gets a real leading role (yeah, yeah, I hear you in the back row shouting “What about The Scorpion King?”), and he does a decent job with it. Playing sensitive, mostly anti-gun retrieval expert Beck, Mr. The Rock is actually pretty good. He does a nice job of being more than a toughie. He actually shows a little conflict with his missions, retrieving debts, objects, and even people for his crimelord boss. All the man wants to do is clear his debts and open a restaurant (it was pretty funny watching him scribble down the name of porcini mushrooms as he listens to the radio).

And yes, Seann William Scott is here as Travis, someone a few notches more mature than American Pie’s Stifler or Dude, Where’s My Car’s Chester. But he still staggers around with the “huh huh huh” look on his face, just with more facial hair and less funny.

So far, so good. Beck chases Travis to South America, and they quickly get embroiled in a local revolt to free the populace from the slavery of Christopher Walken’s crazy mining town (directly lifting scenes from Indiana Jones and Jewel of the Nile while doing so, by the way). I will personally come to your house and beat you about the head if you can’t venture a guess that’s REMOTELY close to how the movie actually turns out. It’s predictable to a serious fault, but still mostly enjoyable.

The action’s fun, too. They managed to let The Rock have a couple of wrestly-type moves thrown in without making the movie look like Vince McMahon funded it, but some of the wirework was visibly bad. It IS fun to watch a bunch of South American guys bounce around like monkeys and beat the crap out of Beck, but even that scene grows long. I will genuinely and heartily recommend the stunts in this film though. When people fall from any height (say, down a cliff, or off a balcony), it’s hilariously brutal. The falls in this movie will have you reaching for your sore back in sympathy.

I haven’t said too much in the real “negative” yet, have I? Well, like I said, I just can’t fathom why the collective drawers of the critic community have been filled over this movie. Ebert just ate this thing up, giving it 3.5 out of 4 stars (whatever happened to his famous thumbs? No wait, don’t answer that). He even goes so far as to say, and I directly quote: “I wrote in my review of [Very Bad Things]: ‘[Director Peter ]Berg shows that he can direct a good movie, even if he hasn’t.’ Now he has.”. Cut me a LARGE freaking break. Talk like that just infuriates me. This IS a better movie than Very Bad Things, but that’s hardly an accomplishment. The Care Bears Movie was better than VBT, even in the black humour department.

The truth is, The Rundown isn’t a terrible movie. It’s just not this gold-plated masterpiece that everyone seems to have decided it is. If you’re a slavering wrestling fan (I actually heard a guy in the theater shout “The Rock bringeth!” during the first fight scene, and man, was I embarrassed for him) you may like it for Dwayne McFrownyface’s role; it’s probably the most legitimate acting he’s ever done. If you’re a chronic Christopher Walken fan, you may buy his stupid ramblings about the Tooth Fairy (I didn’t), but he’s utterly wasted here. And going out on a limb, you may even be a Stifler fan, but rest assured that while Seann William Scott is not playing him here, he’s not filling Travis with anything else, either.

Finally, if you’re anything like me, you’ll spend the entire movie asking yourself “why is it that the first scene, in the nightclub, is so good, and the rest of the movie, in the jungle, is not so much?”.

I can’t believe that in an age where David Manning has been uncovered, critics aren’t more cautious with what they write. Just trust me, The Rundown is just another predictable action movie, whether Ebert’s going to continue blowing smoke up your ass or not. Please, if you’re curious, wait till you can rent it.

Didja notice?

  • The falling! Ow, my back, that’s tough to watch!
  • Arnold Shwarzenegger’s little blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo.
  • Jokes about monkey boners. Great.
  • Could Christopher Walken’s pants creep any higher?
  • So… The Rock is the Tooth Fairy?
  • Aaaaaaaaaaas yoooooouuuuuuu wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiish!
  • The switch between the boat on the river and the hunting party on the road is pretty cool.
  • Ah yes, the classic kung fu move of “run up and hit the guy thirty times in the stomach as fast as you can”

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