The Rundown
Universal // PG-13 // $29.98 // February 10, 2009
Review by Adam Tyner | posted February 14, 2009
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
I'd
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heard him talked up over and over again leading up to The Scorpion King and The Mummy Returns, but I just couldn't see it. The Rundown, though...? This is the flick where The Rock went from being a wrestler-turned-kinda-sorta-actor to an honest to God action hero. Mr. Rock takes the lead as Beck, a poor schlub whose day job may be tackling collection work for the mob, but his heart...? His heart's in gourmet food. Beck's hoping to scrounge together enough cash to open his own homely little bistro, but the big boss has kept nickel-and-diming those paydays to keep his best retrieval expert firmly under his thumb. The big man's desperate now, though. His son Travis (Seann William Scott) ruffled the wrong set of feathers over in Chicago, and although the old man has thrown around enough money to help smoothen things out, he needs the kid in town to dot the Is and make everything copacetic. 'Course, The Rundown has another hour and a half to kill and needs an excuse to get The Rock down to Brazil, so Beck's hopping onboard the next flight to El Dorado to bring the little prick back.

See, Travis is a weasely little bastard pulling a Producers-flavored scam down there in the jungles of Brazil, having promised a couple thousand percentage points of whatever ancient treasure he's been hunting down to damn near everyone in this remote gold mining town. Kindhearted-bartender-with-a-secret Mariana (Rosario Dawson) and slave-driving tyrant Hatcher (Christopher Walken) shrug it all off, and when Beck strolls into town to shove Travis onto the next flight back home, neither of 'em seem all that crushed to see him go. Well, that is until Hatcher starts to buy Travis' tales of uncovering the location of some long-lost golden idol, and that puts Beck on the wrong end of the barrel. A couple of high octane action sequences later, Beck's knee-deep in the heart of the jungle with Travis, and as he tries to keep his slimy paycheck from making a run for it, Hatcher and his gun-toting flunkies start to close in on their trail...

The long
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list of things The Rundown has going for it starts with its backdrop, moving the straight-man/wiseassed-reluctant sidekick formula away from cops in some sprawling metropolis and shifting it over to a steaming jungle. Even though the flick's cameras weren't actually rolling in Brazil, the lush jungle setting is still gorgeous and opens itself up to a slew of unique, off-kilter action sequences. It seems like there's a real drive to try something different here, and The Rundown is imaginative enough to put gunplay back on the shelf, at least for the most part. I mean, I've suffered through a couple hundred action flicks with some stock hero ducking for cover and trying feverishly to reload a pistol as everything around him is blasted to holy hell, but a small army of pint-sized Brazilian rebels careening around the jungle on ropes and pummeling a hulking behemoth three times their size is a heckuva lot more interesting.

The Rock finally lives up to his big-budget action hero potential here. He oozes charisma, Beck is at least a little meatier than just another one-liner-spouting mesh of sinew and oil-slathered muscles, and there really shouldn't be any argument that The Rock has more chops than Schwarzenegger did at this same stage in his career. Rosario Dawson is as instantly likeable as ever, and The Rundown doesn't saddle her with some thankless chick-in-a-refrigerator role. Christopher Walken is predictably Christopher Walkenesque in a role that had to have been written expressly for him. The only weak link, really, is Seann William Scott, who's a little too convincing as this annoying-by-design character, and the movie plays a lot better whenever he's on the sidelines. Nah, we're not talking about a flick that's revolutionizing the face of modern cinema or anything, but The Rundown does a solid job sidestepping the usual expectations, and it doesn't shoehorn in a love story just 'cause there's a pretty girl on the payroll. The Rundown is propelled by an infectious amount of energy and enthusiasm, and a couple of obnoxious stylistic choices aside, Peter Berg's direction is a good bit more confident and sure-handed than I would've expected for a sophomore feature film effort. Oh, and then it's...y'know, funny, an adrenaline rush, ridiculously well cast...all that good stuff. This is one of the better popcorn munchers on Blu-ray right now. Recommended.

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Video
I have to admit to being blown away by The Rundown when I first caught it on HD DVD, but three years and a bigger-'n-better TV later...? This high-def master doesn't rank much higher than okay. There's a nice sense of texture and fine detail, but contrast tends to be kind of murky, and the scope image doesn't leap off the screen the way the most eye-popping Blu-ray discs generally do. Its palette isn't as hypersaturated as I remembered either. This is an enormous leap up from the DVD -- there are untold thousands of miners in a hellish pit, and they're each clear and distinct on-screen in a way standard-def could never hope to deliver -- but for a catalog title on Blu-ray, it's pretty average.

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Audio
The Rundown's lossless soundtrack -- served up here in 24-bit, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio -- rattles the foundation from word one and never really lets up. The music in particular is bolstered by a thunderous low-end, and the gunplay and piles of bodies flung around the screen also pack a wallop. The rear channels are immersive and aggressive too, from a gaggle of psychotic monkeys leaping around to the crack of a whip to a sprawling cave crumbling into ruin. The action can drown out a few scattered lines of dialogue, but...sure, I can let that slide. The audio's frantic sense of energy takes a movie that's already playing like a hypoglycemic kid on a sugar binge and just amps it up that much more. This is a really great track, and the detail and clarity really show off what Blu-ray can belt out.

Rounding out the audio options are DTS 5.1 tracks in Spanish and French alongside the usual laundry list of subtitle streams.

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Extras
The big stack of standard-def extras from the 2004 DVD has been tossed onto this disc too, kicking off with a pair of audio commentaries. The first track with The Rock and director Peter Berg is kinda laid-back and quippy, not much for long, drawn-out stories so much as pondering the best way to square off against Tom Arnold, mulling over what the Rock's hair would look like if he let it grow out for a full decade, debating whether or not cows can get anxious, and swooning over how smolderingly sultry Rosario Dawson is. The other track with Marc Abraham and Kevin Misher takes things a good bit more seriously . They give more of an impression how seat-of-their-pants-ish the production really was and discuss the Speedo-clad robbery that prompted them to steer clear of shooting on location in Brazil. The two of them also belt out some fairly thoughtful discussion about the restrictions of shooting a PG-13 action flick, the ethical concerns of reviews filtering online that are based purely on early test screenings, and how acting in a movie like this is a lot tougher than you might think.

Also piled on here are around forty minutes of featurettes, including a standard issue ten minute EPK, a peek at how Hawaii was gussied up to double for Brazil, the set design of the ramshackle mining town of El Dorado, some of the first-rate stuntwork, the cast-'n-crew fawning over Christopher Walken, and a jokey tabloid-style bit about the actors and baboons monkeying around (zing!). It's all passably okay, but aside from that last one, it's pretty standard stuff. Ditto for the fourteen minutes of deleted scenes, which are unnecessary extensions almost straight across the board along with a clunkier, marginally different ending.

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The Final Word
The Rundown is an '80s buddy comedy-slash-action flick with a here-and-now adrenaline syringe jabbed straight into its left ventricle, and there's something about this exact combination of director, cast, and backdrop that makes for a ridiculous amount of fun. Recommended.


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