Beck (Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock) is what you call a retrieval expert, that is someone who can take care of himself in tough situations to make sure his clients get back whatever it is they have been missing. The people who hire him are generally not great guys, but then often the people he is going after are not too laudable either, yet tonight Beck is reluctant to get too violent with his target for he is a professional football player who, along with his buddies, need to be in tip-top shape for the big game tomorrow. Though when push comes to shove...
There was a little cameo just as Johnson was entering the nightclub in the opening couple of minutes of this film which told you all you needed to know: Arnold Schwarzenegger himself passes him and tells him to have fun. It was a joke that just happened to have the luck of good timing - Arnie was visiting the set and was invited to appear briefly - but summed up everything director Peter Berg and his writers were aiming for, which was to build The Rock up as the next great action star, just as those stars such as Schwarzenegger had been in his youth. If he didn't quite manage that worldbeating status, he had made a good fist of it.
Not that The Rundown took place in Los Angeles nightclubs for the duration, as its alternative title, Welcome to the Jungle, was more indicative of its location, er, the jungle. The Amazon to be exact, as Beck is despatched by his current boss to Brazil and a gold mine there, to retrieve his son Travis, who was played by Seann William Scott, another actor who seemed poised to make the megastar status but didn't quite, though he was usually worth watching. Scott had made his name in comedy, and there was evidence of that wiseacre persona here, except here he was more of a villain, if not an out and out baddie as co-star Christopher Walken was.
This meant an interesting state of affairs where you keep expecting Beck and Travis to team up in time-honoured mismatched buddy movie fashion, but the story resisted them getting too chummy for as long as it possibly could: we knew it was coming, you could be forgiven for thinking maybe they'd forgotten about that part for most of the running time. This wasn't hilarious, but it did offer an intriguing dynamic to what could have been strictly run of the mill. Make no mistake, this was generic stuff, but in that style the moviemakers produced something enjoyable and action-packed which did not shortchange the audience for this type of thing, and included the odd eccentricity to make it stand out.
Walken may have been the main evildoer in a performance he had given many times before and would do again, but there was even a spot of social conscience to remind those into bling of whatever variety exactly where their precious metals hailed from, as those workers he employed were obviously paid a pittance with their conditions Beck observes look like Hell on Earth. Therefore we have good reason to see Walken's character taken down a peg or two, especially as he terms his workers "Oompah-Loompahs" in one absurdly memorable moment. Also filling out a cast of strong personalities were Rosario Dawson, who seems like the de rigueur love interest but proves to be someone more flavourful, and Ewen Bremner, sporting a Northern Irish accent which failed to explain his later on tribute to his Scottish homeland, kilt, bagpipes and all. With a muscular tone that never turned resistable, The Rundown was reminiscent of those eighties efforts, but in a good way - it reminded you of the fun you had with them. Music by Harry Gregson-Williams.