Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
US Rating: Rated Pg-13 For Adventure Violence and Some Crude Dialogue
Film Length: 1hr 45 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p High Definition
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French and Spanish DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and English
Review Date: February 22, 2009
The Film - out of
Twenty years ago, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson would be an action star to rival Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. But alas, audiences preferences for action films changed and the traditional action films of the 80’s and early 90’s all but disappeared from cinema’s, relegated for the most part directly to DVD. There are exceptions of course, but the days of a Predator, Commando, Rambo and Universal Soldier, with muscle bound, seemingly invincible heroes battling evil with guns and brawn seem to have no place in movie houses. But The Rundown is a true throwback to a simpler action film and boy, is it fun.
‘The Rock’ stars as Beck, a bounty hunter/retriever who recovers money, items or people by using his considerable musculature and fighting talents. He is in debt to his boss, a powerful man and despite trying to leave the game and open a restaurant, he must go out on one last mission to retrieve the degenerate son of his boss and return him to L.A. He is sent to Brazil, to a gold mining town called El Dorado (dubbed Hell Dorado) to pick up Travis, a smart mouthed loser played by Seann William Scott. Travis is in Brazil searching for a priceless treasure. But he has made an enemy of the ruthless town lord Hatcher (Christopher Walken), the vicious boss of the town’s gold mine which has essentially enslaved the population. In trying to retrieve Travis, Beck upsets Hatcher and pretty soon, he finds himself in the middle of the Amazon, Travis in hand, partnered with a leader of the rebels (Rosario Dawson), being chased by Hatcher’s goons, in search of the precious artifact so that he can make his way out and back to Los Angeles to make his delivery.
Director Peter Berg demonstrates some good instincts in shooting The Rundown. It is an action comedy with buddy comedy elements, but has a heavy emphasis on the action. He crafts a number of sequences that are both visceral and imaginative. The opening sequence, where we are introduced to Beck’s character, talents and nice guy tendencies, packs quite the punch, and the action only gets better, such as the elaborate fight sequence with the rebels in the jungle which is almost entirely for fun. Some of these action scenes don’t further the story at all – but that’s exactly what these kinds of films are for. All this action is all infused with what is now a distinct flavor from Director Berg. In many ways, 2008’s unusual superhero blockbuster Hancock represents the culmination of what Berg began here in The Rundown. His sense of humor among the action, which travels between playful and quite serious (again, like Hancock) is expressed more clearly here, however. But what Berg does with the screenplay by R.J. Stewart and James Vanderbilt is deliver slick, uncomplicated fun - making The Rundown an easy action film to get into.
The film also employs the use of a little Computer Generated Imagery to heighten the action, which affords it some nice creative touches. Not all of it is perfectly blended but it gives the film a little something extra – a little more scope and a little more grandness.
The Rundown recognizes that it’s the passing of the action hero mantle from Arnold Schwarzenegger to The Rock, which it does both figuratively and literally (see Arnie in the opening sequence cameo). I wish, however, that it had ushered in a resurgence of simpler action films; films that appealed purely to a sense of fun – with explosions, fights and outlandish action centered around a larger than life action hero personality. But, as it stood, The Rundown did not trigger an audience’s thirst for what I had hoped for – but I do still hold out hope, mainly because The Rock is still so promising as that action star. He is a more nuanced actor, more comfortable with fight scenes and has a much better sense of comic timing than any of the action stars from decades past. All those action film star improvements are on display here and The Rock is just about perfect in this film. His co-stars also serve the material well. Seann William Scott makes ‘annoying’ entertaining. His scruffy loser is the main source of comic relief and he plays against The Rock’s serious, single-purpose Beck well. Rosario Dawson is straightforward as the rebel leader Mariana and Ewen Bremner as the pilot, an odd but fun character called Declan is good too. But the real gem is Christopher Walken’s eclectic and bizarre Hatcher. Boasting a propensity for anomalous verbal tangents and a peculiar sense of entitlement, Walken chews up the screen and has fun doing so.
The Rundown is a quality action film that should have been given a better reception; a fairer shake.
Universal Pictures gave The Rundown a solid high definition presentation on HD-DVD and delivers once again with this film’s first outing on Blu-Ray in its original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1, in 1080p High Definition. The opening close-up shot of The Rock’s hands and face shows what the best of this image can produce. There is plenty of fine detail to be found in this bright, colorful presentation. The image has a few moments of softness but it also shows off a good natural film look which is pleasing to the eye. You’ll find a good looking image here for a film that spends much of its time in the warmer end of the color spectrum. There are good contrasts, strong greens and very bright dusty reds and rich golden yellows to be enjoyed.
Unlike the HD-DVD version, which only came with a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio track, Universal has done right by this HD release and provided a thunderous English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Beyond the bam and boom of the subwoofer, which flexes its muscle more than The Rock does in the film, the audio delivers the goods all around. The center channel is crisp with dialogue and the front channels carry a lot of the action and Harry Gregson-William’s playful score with aplomb.
The surrounds are flexed to draw us in with directional effects from gunshots, plane sounds and more all sound great.
Deleted Scenes - (13:50) – Almost 14 minutes of additional scenes and extended elements of other scenes. Some good little moments here and there.
Rumble in the Jungle - (10:32) – A fun ‘making of’ that takes a look at some of the fight sequences prep work, a fight scene from towards the end of the film that was cut and the actors goofing around and having some fun.
The Amazon, Hawaii Style - (5:27) – Hawaii was the stand in location for the Brazilian Amazon and a perfect substitute for the more exotic South American setting – as you will see in this short little extra
Appetite for Destruction - (8:20) – A look at some pyrotechnics with the bus explosion, the entertaining physical effect of the falling water tower and the destructive cattle stampede.
The Rundown Uncensored - (6:07) – A goofy behind the scenes look that aims more for entertainment than education. I am not sure it succeeds in that.
Running Down the Town - (4:09) – Thomas Duffield, production designer, created the Brazilian slum town in the middle of Los Angeles and gives us a tour of the set.
Walken’s World - (5:33) – A look at the curious, fun bad guy Hatcher, played by Christopher Walken.
Feature Commentary with The Rock and Director Peter Berg – Director Berg and The Rock have some fun with this commentary. Berg in particular shares some good information about the shoot. This is a laid back commentary and an easy listen.
Feature Commentary with Producers Kevin Misher and Marc Abraham – A little more serious commentary and a little more focused on discussing what’s on screen. Another good listen, however.
The Rundown, which was the wrestling entertainment giant WWE’s first cinematic foray, received a lukewarm critical reception and was a disappointment at the box office. But none of that is the fault of the film. It was released in 2003, a strange time in America at the cinema. But now is the perfect time to discover, or rediscover this highly entertaining, adrenaline rush of an action film. If you are a fan of action flicks, pick it up, you won’t be disappointed.