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The Rundown’ trips over own ambitions

Annie Rohrs | Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Director Peter Berg’s The Rundown presents poor acting and poor scripting in this combination action/comedy film that, in trying to be both, doesn’t do either genre justice.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays Beck, a tough guy from Los Angeles who is working off debts to his wealthy boss by doing his dirty work. His dream is to own his own restaurant, but before he can attain that, Beck has to do one

final job. He must travel to the Brazilian jungles to retrieve his boss’ son, Travis, played by Sean William Scott. Travis is seeking a treasure that would make him rich and has gotten himself into some trouble he can’t get out of on his own. It proves to be no easy task for Beck, as he is foiled at all angles – by Travis, who has no desire to return home, by the forces of nature, by Mariana (played by Rosario Dawson), who’s after the treasure for her own reasons, and by Hatcher (played by Christopher Walken), a slave-driver who owns a gold mine and employs everyone in town. Once Hatcher discovers that Travis knows how to find this treasure, which is worth a huge fortune, he won’t let Beck take Travis without a fight.

The plot has potential as an action movie, but fails to pan out. There are some strong fight scenes and interesting twists in the form of jungle rebels, sex-crazed monkeys and hallucinogenic fruit. However, they can’t save the movie from its foundering one-liners and misplaced humor. The movie is badly written, with the dialogue switching between extremely serious and extremely flippant; this clash, meant to add comic relief, is only distracting. The dialogue is unrealistic and the attempt to mix in humor with hard physical action falls short.

The acting in the movie leaves much to be desired, as well. Johnson’s Beck is stoic, unemotional and very one-sided, much like a machine. He is never daunted by any enemy, regardless of number, size or weapon; he single-handedly beats up the entire defensive line of an NFL team and fends off multiple attackers wielding guns, knives and whips, for the most part with no weapon of his own. Scott’s Travis is a constant reminder of the sarcastic, wise-ass Stifler from the American Pie movies, a role that Scott can’t seem to break out of. He adds much of the comedy to the film; however it just doesn’t fit into the conflict smoothly; Stifler’s jokes and attitude are very out of place in a wild jungle in which he is running for his life while desperately seeking a mysterious hidden treasure and fighting off Hatcher and his hit men.

While the entire movie is oppressively flawed, the ending is the biggest letdown. All of the issues are resolved with almost ridiculous ease after so much conflict and struggle, and the conclusion ultimately leaves the audience wondering, what was the point?

All in all, by trying too hard to be both, The Rundown fails to successfully take off as either an action or comedy film.

Contact Annie Rohrs at arohrs@nd.edu