23 May 2004

Review: The Rundown (3/5)

The Rundown begins as a smart action movie. We get a colorful and colofully filmed night club brawl, where The Rock takes care of bidness within a collection of jarring camera cuts and Monday Night Football-influenced on-screen graphics. Much of the editing creativity is carried on later in the movie, but it's always strategic and never overdone. After the opening scene, we're presented with The Rock as the flawed hero hoping to get out of a debt owed from a Bad Mistake in his past. The details of the mistake are never outlined, but with just one more job he can go free and pursue his dream of opening a restaurant.

The film defies bland predictability with inventive fight scenes, a sometimes humorous and generally evil Bad Guy played by Christopher Walken, and a classic buddy pairing of The Rock and Stiffler (Seann William Scott). The two actors rise above the predictable tough guy + wise acre combination, and both characters have their share of flaws that together they convincingly overcome. Rosario Dawson has a strong supporting role, but she and others are always secondary to the two leads.

There are notable belief-suspending car wrecks and falls where the film loses some points, but they are redeemed in other action sequences. The fights are well choreographed with a sense of humor, and the have a strong pacing so that the viewer isn't just lost in a sea of knucke-sandwiches. The scenery locks you in with both the sheer spectacle and the cinematography. The topography of the mountains and density of the jungle are showcased with dizzying arial shots and zooms. This is contrasted with shots of subjugated locals (cue evil Walken) whose roles, though probably based a great deal in reality, do not suffer from excessive proselytizing. The movie doesn't diminish the injustice nor dwell on it too excessively for a mere action movie.

The Rock is always likable in a way that Schwarzenegger, who has a very short cameo, seldom was. The Rundown is by no means a classic, but it could be and should be the type of film he chooses to make instead of Walking Tall.

[ posted by sstrader on 23 May 2004 at 5:23:30 PM in Cinema ]