The Rundown (***)

Posted on September 6th, 2003 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

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.

Crossing Delancey (***½)

Posted on September 6th, 2003 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

I don’t live in New York, I’m not a member of the literary intelligentsia, I’m not Jewish, I’m not single, and I’m not female. Crossing Delancey tells the story of a single, Jewish woman who lives in New York, and whose work has her rubbing elbows with noted, famous authors. Despite having nothing in common with the main character, Izzy (short for Isabelle), I *love* this movie. I think that it’s because I identify with Sam, the pickle man, who is Izzy’s sporadic suitor.

Izzy is played by Amy Irving, in one of her best, perhaps very best, roles. Izzy is an intelligent, upwardly mobile professional who seems to be making a good life for herself doing something she loves. She has a good, rent-controlled apartment, works at a prestigious old-style bookstore, hobnobs with the upper crust of the New York literary scene, and spends personal time with her life-long girlfriends. Her only remaining connection to her past is her grandmother, Bubbie, who still lives in the old neighborhood in the old way. Izzy is dutiful in visiting her Bubbie and helping her with shopping, etc, but resists her Bubbie’s insistent meddling into her personal life. Bubbie firmly believes that Izzy “…lives alone, like a dog. Only a dog should live alone, not people!” Izzy insists that she has a great life, and doesn’t need a man to feel complete.

Unbeknownst to Izzy, Bubbie retains the services of the local matchmaker to help Izzy find a husband. Izzy doesn’t find out about the setup until the wheels are already in motion, and she is too respectful of her Bubbie to just leave once she finds out. So, she dutifully, but coldly, endures a lunchtime meeting around Bubbie’s kitchen table with the matchmaker and her blind date, Sam. Sam is played by Peter Riegert, in a marvelously understated performance. Sam owns a pickle stand on the lower East side, which he inherited from his father. A pickle man from the old neighborhood is definitely not what Izzy wants in a man, as she tends to get all doe-eyed and mushy over a prattling, Euro-trash author, played with perfect pitch by Jeroen Krabbé.

That’s the basic setup of Crossing Delancey, and the rest of the story follows Izzy as she goes through the process of separating what she thinks she wants from what she actually needs. There’s nothing earth-shattering or original about the plot, but the story is imbued with wit, warmth, and humor, and all of the characters feel real, and it’s easy to care very much what happens to them. Amy Irving does an excellent job of portraying Izzy’s angst as she struggles with the forces pulling her between her old and new worlds.

The movie portrays a literary world populated by semi-talented, blathering, self-congratulatory “noted authors”, who are surrounded by fawning, pseudo-intellectual wannabes. I’m actually distilling down to one sentence what is only eventually implied by the movie, and this characterization of the literati is not heavy-handed or comical. But the movie does