Action movies are a tricky genre. When they manage to be creative, fast-paced, and pulse-pounding, there is nothing quite like the experience of watching them. When they are sluggish, brainless, and unexciting, they can be a very bad thing, indeed. "The Rundown" falls into the latter camp with a thud. It is a black hole of nothingness that is not only hackneyed, but also mindnumbingly boringa cardinal sin of any genre film that isn't doing its job well.
Beck (The Rock) is a tough guy retrieval expert who yearns to get out of the business. When his boss hands him his latest mission, the stakes are suddenly heightened. If Beck can travel to Brazil and bring back his boss's rebellious son, Travis (Seann William Scott), he will be able to put this career behind him and become the chef he has always dreamed of being. Retrieving Travis turns out to be harder than expected for Beck, who is forced to chase him through the Amazon as he locates a hidden artifact worth a fortune. As Beck chases Travis, so does the tyrannical Hatcher (Christopher Walker), who wants the artifact for himself, and local bartender Mariana (Rosario Dawson), who sees it as a means of freeing her people from borderline-slave labor laws.
Director Peter Berg, whose last film was 1998's pitch-black delight "Very Bad Things
"a foreboding title of projects to come if I ever saw onehas seemed to regress as a filmmaker in the last five years. "Very Bad Things
" was ballsy, quirky, and imaginative in a most gleefully perverse way. "The Rundown" is none of these things, a dreary, trite wannabe-adventure that would be right at home as a direct-to-video release, but is just plain painful in the confines of a movie theater.
Wrestler-turned-actor The Rock has undeniable charisma. It was glimpsed, but not taken advantage of, in 2002's "The Scorpion King
," and it is on hand again here. His Beck has potential: he is a muscled, handsome man with a talent for cooking who has wandered into the wrong business. Unfortunately, nothing is done with this interesting character trait, and a running gag where he continuously tries to finish writing the word "mushroom" in his recipe notepad is completely forgotten about in the second half and offers no payoff. As the wily Travis, Seann William Scott (2003's "American Wedding
") is his usual jackass self, which is to say that this kind of role is getting old very fast for him. And as has depressingly become the case more often than not in recent years, the talented Christopher Walken (2003's "Kangaroo Jack
") slums it as the heavy while cashing an easy paycheck.
Save for one awesome shot which starts out over a boat on a river before lifting into the air, over the jungle, and back down over a jeep driving on a dirt path, "The Rundown" is exempt of a single original flourish. Its action scenes, which are mostly of the wrestling variety with some weapons thrown in for good measure, are technically passable but do nothing to get the viewer's adrenaline going. The rest (read: exposition scenes) are overlong and overpopulated. Tellingly, "The Rundown" takes roughly 45 minutes to get going, and when it does it only picks up to a halfhearted crawl. The Rock may be the next major action star, but he's going to have to make some smarter career choices if he ever plans on appearing in a watchable motion picture.