So, The Rock has *it*. That may already have been evident to his wrestling fans, and maybe to others after his film debut in The Scorpion King, but I remained undecided. His performance in Scorpion was better than I expected it would be, but it still didn’t convince me that he was destined to blossom into a legitimate movie star.
But The Rundown has made me a believer. The Rock still has a few rough edges, but in Rundown he’s funny, cool, menacing and charismatic. Now, this is an action/buddy/comedy, so he’s not being asked to demonstrate a Method actor’s range, but he does an excellent job with the material at hand.
The film itself is mindlessly/mildly enjoyable, with some good action sequences, beautiful jungle scenery, trite-but-relatively-inoffensive storyline and dialogue, rapacious monkeys, an inexplicable Scotsman, and Christopher Walken doing an excellent impression of Christopher Walken at his most menacingly cruel. It also has Sean William Scott, who may be on his way to replacing Keanu Reeves, in my mind, as the luckiest dope to ever fall ass-backwards into a film career.
The storyline is basically an amalgamation of Romancing the Stone, Midnight Run, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Magnificent Seven. The plot is unremarkable, but it also manages not to get in the way of the heart of the film, which is the action, the stunts, and the scenery. Several of the stunts looked real (not CGI) and quite painful, and the fight scenes have some amazing looking moves that, again, do not appear to be computer-generated. There are a couple of places where the trickery is noticeable, but it never devolves into Crouching Angels Reloaded fantasy-fighting. And the mountains of Hawaii are breathtaking as they stand-in for the jungles of Brazil.
So, the best part of this film is The Rock laying the foundation for what appears to be a long and successful career. Pay close attention to the first few minutes of the film to see what appears to be the (deserved) passing of the Action Hero torch from one generation to the next. I hope that The Rock chooses his next few projects wisely, as he is on the verge of superstar status, and many before him have been at this same watershed point, only to take their eye off the ball and end up Van Damm-ed to mediocrity.