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The Rundown

(2003) ** 1/2 Pg-13
104 min. Universal. Director: Peter Berg. Cast: Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Seann William Scott, Rosario Dawson, Christopher Walken, Ewen Bremner.

Okay, here's The Rundown. You got your Seann William Scott, you got your Christopher Walken, and you got your the Rock. Throw in Rosario Dawson for good (ogling) measure. Baste liberally with bone-crunching stunts and suspiciously familiar headlocks and tosses. Half-bake some Indiana Jones action, and I think you can smell what the Rock is cooking: a dish that'll fatten your head but pleasantly plump your gut.

If The Rundown succeeds, and I suppose it does by the skin of its teeth, it's by throwing a little of everything into the pot. Director Peter Berg (the sometime actor who helmed the self-confident black comedy Very Bad Things) here channels Jerry Bruckheimer's school of rock, dicing each scene--and particularly each action sequence--into addictive "once you pop, you can't stop" crumbs. Berg and the Rock prove immediately simpatico in an opening sequence which puts the star in convincing elements: a hot-spot nightclub, a mock-serious dilemma involving an ultimatum for a football team's entire defensive line, and a flatteringly upscale suit. The ensuing strobe-lit, quick-cut knockout, drag-down fight is piecemeal but propulsively charged nonetheless. Did I mention California Gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger gives the scene his (timely) on-screen blessing?

The Rock's collection agent/bounty hunter/aspiring restaurateur Beck proves to be a videogame Street Fighter come to life (as Walken says, "You got the moves, I'll give you that."). When Beck's boss makes him a parting offer he can't refuse--"One job, I wipe your slate clean, and you have your restaurant"--the big lug hops the next duct-taped plane to Brazil to nab the boss's wayward son Travis (Scott), a self-serving treasure hunter. There, Beck runs afoul of evil slave driver Hatcher (Walken) and the rebel forces with whom Hatcher is embroiled in conflict. Dawson's mysterious and lippy Mariana--somehow invested in the conflict--effortlessly turns the heads of Beck and Travis every time they cross paths. Did I mention the two boneheads get more action from a bevy of horny jungle monkeys?

The reliably amusing Scott pulls some chuckles out of thin air, and the Rock does an admirably charismatic job of putting The Scorpion King behind him, but The Rundown is as thin and machine-made as lunchmeat; the devil's in the lack of details. While Beck consistently asserts his aversion to guns, he predictably changes his tune for a crowd-pleasing Jiffy-Pop finale. The Hollywood solution to a flaccid script is predictable and naggingly effective: throw money at a one-of-a-kind, independently amusing talent like Walken. To see Walken fix his bug-eyed stare (or for that matter, narrow his eyes) and to hear him intone, "I'm the heart in the darkness" or, God help us all, "That's a lot of cows" as understated color commentary to a running of bulls, well, you try to keep a stone face through that. Did I mention Walken delivers a hilariously abortive monologue about the Tooth Fairy? Run that by me again...

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Aspect ratios: 2.35:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 2/10/2009

Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

In its Blu-ray debut, The Rundown comes with an very strong transfer preserving its hyper-stylized color in a clean and detailed image; it's supported by a perfectly robust DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. As on DVD, The Rundown comes with two bonus audio tracks: an entertainingly jokey, male-bonding commentary with The Rock and director Peter Berg, and a more run-of-the mill commentary with producers Kevin Misher and Marc Abraham.

"Deleted Scenes" (13:50, SD) are actually largely extended scenes, but there are plenty of gems here, including amusing trims of Walken and Ewen Bremner and even a bit more action.

"Rumble in the Jungle" (10:32, SD) gives us a look at the film's production, with Berg, The Rock, Scott, Ernie Reyes, Jr., and Rosario Dawson. "The Amazon, Hawaii Style" (5:27, SD) focuses on the beautiful but sometimes trying location; Berg, Misher, The Rock, Scott, Dawson participate.

"Appetite for Destruction" (8:20, SD) gets into the film's outsized action, with special effects coordinator Burt Dalton, The Rock, and Dawson. "The Rundown Uncensored" (6:08, SD) is a mockumentary goof about working with the baboons. Participants include baboon trainer Kevin Keith, Berg, The Rock, and Scott.

"Running Down the Town" (4:09, SD) collects observations from production designer Thomas Duffield, producer Karen Glasser, Misher, The Rock, Abraham, Christopher Walken and Dawson about the elaborate El Dorado set, while "Walken's World" (5:33, SD) honors the weirdest actor walking. Walken, Duffield, Berg, and The Rock chat for the camera.

The disc includes Universal's My Scenes functionality, with a BD-Live hook-up to share clips online.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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