The lowdown on the Rundown

The review for an action/comedy movie starring The Rock, Stiffler and Christopher Walken should write itself. The casting choices are more transparent than those in the upcoming Jackie Chan/John Cleese/Schwarzenegger vehicle, as if the executives at Universal got together over drinks one night and asked each other, “Who are the most bankable but mismatched stars that we could possibly put together in a movie?” Thus, The Rundown was born.

Beck (The Rock) is a brutally effective mafioso enforcer/aspiring restauranteur who, after a joyously bone-crunching pre-credits dancehall rumble, decides to take one last job in order to win long-sought freedom from his employers: extract free-spirited renegade Travis (Sean William Scott aka Stiffler) from the depths of the Amazon and bring him back to civilization before a corrupt gold baron–played by a woefully underutilized Christopher Walken–gets his hands on the boy.

Beck struggles through the rainforest under the guidance of a hilariously Scottish bush pilot, eventually meeting up with Travis who is trying to ply a speedboat from his barmaid girlfriend, or something.

Don’t worry too much about the story, because The Rundown certainly isn’t interested. There’s a generous amount of exposition regarding some mysterious, long-lost idol and lots of characters talk about buying freedom for an oppressed Amazonian tribe, but let’s be honest–we’re here to see The Rock beat the shit out of people.

And oh, does The Rundown deliver.

There’s akimbo gunplay (in both pistol and shotgun flavours), obscenely overdone wirework, hundreds of broken jawbones, throwing axes and, yes, a guy with two whips. Then some guys fall down a mountain. Not only is the action fast-paced and lighthearted, it’s also fun as hell.

All right, sure, you may not have dug on The Scorpion King, and American Pie may have worn out its welcome by now, but nobody can deny that The Rock and Stiffler are both extremely charismatic stars. Together, they work some weird voodoo magic on the defenseless audience and produce an enthralling, exuberant chemistry, with Stiffler providing the boyish comic momentum and The Rock playing as his gigantic straight man.

Honestly, I haven’t had so much fun watching two stars play off each other in an action movie since Die Hard: With A Vengence. The two bumble through the rainforest like a post-Matrix Abbot and Costello while encountering pig snares, rabid monkeys and even a gang of shaolin guerrilla rebels (the latter resulting in an extended, frenetic and deliciously violent wire-fu fight scene that is by far the film’s best sequence).

By the end of The Rundown, there’s been a passionate discussion about who would win in a fight between Mohammed Ali and Mike Tyson, motorcycles have been driven very unsafely through the jungle, Christoper Walken has acted creepy and I’ve seen The Rock shirtless exactly three more times than I had before. With merits like that, how could you not love a shamelessly fun summer blockbuster, even if it’s arrived two months too late?

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