The Rundown (2003)

I watched The Rundown the night before writing up this review, and I struggled — and for the longest time, failed — to remember that I even watched it. I knew I watched two movies before going to bed, and I knew what the other one was, but I couldn’t even think of a single moment from The Rundown. It was the title that eluded me; it was the entire production. If that doesn’t sound like a reason to avoid it, I don’t know what exactly you’re looking for.

It doesn’t speak terribly highly of an action film when you can’t remember a single moment about it not even 24 hours later without really thinking hard. I suppose that’s probably giving away exactly what I thought about it too early, but I do remember points when I was having fun; I just can’t remember them now. There are movies out there that are fairly enjoyable in the moment but mean absolutely nothing just ten minutes after you watch them. The Rundown is one of these movies. You have no reason to watch it other than to kill a couple of hours. It’s sufficient at doing that.

The basic set-up seems oddly familiar, even though I can’t think of a movie that used it exactly as it is here. The Rock plays a man named Beck, who is a “retrieval expert” — someone who goes in and gets things that someone else has. He’s like a mercenary, except that instead of killing people, he takes their things. He’s tasked with going down to Brazil in order to bring back a man’s son, Travis (Sean William Scott), to America. After that, he’ll be out of the retrieval game — if it truly is a “game” — and have enough money to pursue his dream of owning a restaurant.

So, he heads down to Brazil, kidnaps Travis, and then runs into an issue when the ruler of the town, the man who provides the town with jobs, Hatcher (Christopher Walken) doesn’t want to let Travis leave considering he has been trying to locate a treasure item made of solid gold. The Rock doesn’t care, takes Travis anyway, and before you know it, we’re being chased through the jungle. Go to the airport, go find the MacGuffin — it doesn’t really matter, as we know that both will eventually happen. Probably.

Of course, Travis isn’t so happy about being abducted, so he and Beck have to fight a bit and go through the reluctant buddy scenario. There’s no natural progression here — in one scene, they might be fighting, but in the next, they’ll seem like the best of friends — but I almost expect that out of an action flick like this where the buddy storyline isn’t the focus; it’s an afterthought, included to give us some laughs and maybe bring a bit of tension to the mix.

And, to be fair, The Rock and Scott have fairly solid chemistry. Watching them go through the jungle, bantering back and forth as they traverse through the wilderness, is good fun. There are some lines in there that Scott gets that are really quite enjoyable, and if The Rundown had focused more on their relationship, it might have been worth watching. However, it’s mostly about the chase, about finding this item, and about the action scenes.

These are not quite as enjoyable. The chase should give a sense of urgency and bring suspense to the table for the whole film. Guys with guns — oh, Beck doesn’t use guns because they hurt people, which makes no sense, but whatever — are chasing these people, and they could pop up at any time. But they don’t, save for a couple of convenient points to make sure that something happens. The item only actually comes up a couple of times, even though it’s what’s driving the villains to being bad guys, and none of the action scenes are very fun or inventive.

This was one of the films in which The Rock still used his wrestling moves in the fight scenes — Vince McMahon does serve as one of the producers, after all — so they all had to be choreographed in a way to allow for that. It makes it feel unrealistic and borderline stupid. Why would he dropkick a guy who is coming at him with a chair when he’s holding a weapon? Because he does that in the wrestling ring and therefore should do it here. For the fans.

The whole thing ends with a shootout — yes, even with Beck’s gun aversion, it still ends that way — and by that point I had grown tired. Tired of the formula, tired of these characters, and even tired of the beautiful Brazil jungle (which might actually be Hawaii’s jungle, but you get the point). I was sick and tired and kind of bored, and while The Rundown had its moments, they were very few and mostly involved Scott taking shots at the man who looked a good half-foot taller than he is and could easily beat him up.

The Rundown is a forgettable, generic action-buddy-last job crossover that is nowhere near worth spending the time on, unless you really want to see the strong chemistry between The Rock and Sean William Scott. The action scenes come first in a film like this — which is generally fine — but because they’re not inventive or even all that fun to watch, they bored me. The hand-to-hand scenes are ruined by The Rock having to use wrestling moves, the other action scenes aren’t enjoyable, and the whole project isn’t worth watching.

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