Fri, Oct 17, 2003 - Page 20 News List

The Rock muscles in on the action film

It would seem to be an appropriate time for Arnold Schwarzenegger, now the governor of California, to hand over the baton to a younger actor

By Dave Kehr  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

The Rock is the lastest in the line of action heroes sent out to commit murder and mayhem on the behalf of the good guys.

PHOTO COURTESY OF BVI

In the The Rundown, the professional wrestler known as the Rock (real name: Dwayne Douglas Johnson) makes a formal announcement of his candidacy for the post recently abandoned by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Schwarzenegger himself graciously appears in a cameo, leaving a wild party in a disco as the Rock makes his way in.

As they pass each other, Schwarzenegger salutes his would-be replacement. "Have fun," he says, as if offering two words of career advice to his younger (though perhaps even larger)

successor.

That's the only genuinely resonant moment in The Rundown,which opens today nationwide. The film is otherwise a strictly formulaic action picture that suggests some of Schwarzenegger's early, low-budget vehicles, like Commando (1985) and Raw Deal (1986).

The Rock plays Beck, a reluctant enforcer for a Los Angeles loan shark who is sent to the jungles of Brazil (though the film was shot in Hawaii) to retrieve his boss's son Travis (Seann William Scott of the American Pie series).

But Travis isn't eager to return, having discovered the location of a valuable golden idol, cunningly concealed for centuries in a hidden, booby-trapped cave. Hatcher (Christopher Walken), the cynical American who owns and operates a hellish open-pit gold mine in the area, is also after Travis' secret, as is Mariana (Rosario Dawson), a local beauty who owns a bar but harbors a big secret of her own.

As Scott chatters, the Rock pummels, a dynamic that has surfaced in practically every buddy action picture since Walter Hill paired Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in 48 Hrs. (1982).

The casting of Walken immediately relieves the screenwriters, R. J. Stewart and James Vanderbilt, of the burden of writing a character for him: he delivers his standard creepy, campy performance, punctuated by a few feral yelps. And Dawson is, as always, an extremely attractive presence.

Film Notes:

The Rundown

Directed by: Peter Berg

Starring: The Rock (Beck), Sean William Scott (Travis), Rosario Dawson (Mariana), Ernie Riese Jr. (Manito),

Dennis Keiffer (Naylor)

Running time: 104 minutes

Taiwan Release: Today


The director, Peter Berg (Very Bad Things), keeps the predictable story line on course without developing a truly compelling momentum in the action sequences or finding anything fresh in the interaction of the stock characters.

One exceptional moment finds the Rock facing down a practitioner of Brazilian kick-boxing, a tiny man who, jabbing, jumping and swinging from handy vines, is just as quick and mercurial as the Rock is large and stolid. It's like watching a hippopotamus take on a mosquito, and the hippopotamus is the underdog.

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