DVD Review HTF Review: The Rundown (Highly Recommended!)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jason Perez, Mar 18, 2004.

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  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

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    [​IMG]

    The Rundown






    Studio: Universal
    Year: 2003
    Rated: PG-13
    Film Length: 105 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
    Captions: English
    Subtitles: French, and Spanish
    Audio: English – Dolby Digital 5.1; French & Spanish Dolby 2.0 Surround






    Release Date:
    March 23rd, 2004





    Finally…the big, loud, and expensive Hollywood action film is back, in the form of The Rundown! Since Jean-Claude, Sly, and Seagal faded away into direct-to-video obscurity and Arnold Schwarzenegger became a politician, it seems like we have lacked a true action hero, but looks as if Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is now ready to claim the title for his own. Speaking of Arnold, who appears very briefly in the film, were it released about fifteen years ago The Rundown is a film that probably could have worked well with him in the lead role, although it is doubtful that even the Austrian Oak could have pulled off some of the insane stunts The Rock had to do. Indeed, this film has the feel of a testosterone-laden action flick from the 80s, with its cool fight scenes, creative gunplay, and substantial infusion of comedy.

    Shortly after the film opens, Beck (The Rock), a bounty hunter who is trying to start a new life as a restaurateur, is given an opportunity to wipe his slate clean and earn the startup capital for his business - all he needs to do is complete one last assignment. Specifically, he is tasked with heading to Brazil to track down his boss’ son Travis Walker (Seann William Scott), and bringing him back to California. Of course, matters are complicated by the fact that Travis, who is trying to locate an über-valuable artifact, does not want to be taken back.

    Beck’s problems don’t end there though, as the regional big shot, Cornelius Hatcher (Christopher Walken), who has virtually enslaved many of the locals in his mine, has heard of the artifact and wants it for his own. Of course, in order to find it, he needs Travis’ help, which irritates Beck, who had previously been given permission to take Mr. Walker away. After a little confrontation, Hatcher unleashes a small army of his goons to prevent Beck from taking his treasure map (Walker) back to the U.S.

    As if that was not enough trouble for Beck, a small troop of rebels, including the lovely Mariana (Rosario Dawson), is also in the mix. Apparently, they want to retrieve the mythical artifact to help the locals survive independently of Hatcher. As you might expect, the parties end up chasing each other through the dense jungle trying to be the first to claim the treasure and the last to be killed.

    Clearly, this story has been told many times before, but The Rundown succeeds largely because of its unpretentious nature, excellent execution, and high production values. The cast and crew obviously set out to create a formulaic, uncomplicated, and entertaining action vehicle, with an even balance of action and humor. While the result is not the most laugh-out-loud “buddy comedy” ever made, director Peter Berg blends these elements together quite well, and the final product serves as good entertainment, even though one could easily check their brain at the door before watching the film.

    Hey, not every film has to aspire to our artistic sensibilities, right? As long as movies like this don’t take themselves too seriously, and accomplish what they set out to do, I am perfectly OK with them. Yes, The Rundown is a simplistic story, but it also has a lot going for it, especially as a sensory experience. For instance, director Peter Berg, helms the film with far more skill than a “typical” action director might, and as a result, the inventive action sequences are crisply shot and edited. The movie is also well paced, as there is never a time where more than a few minutes without something interesting happening. Finally, Berg’s active use of sound…well that should speak for itself.

    Another thing that really helps this film stand out within its genre is good casting. The Rock is proving to be the real deal when it comes to fun, action-oriented vehicles, and while he is not yet what I would call a great actor, he possesses infinitely more charisma and acting ability than Vin Diesel, or similar contenders for the “action star” crown. As he showed in his first major film role (Matthias in The Scorpion King,) The Rock has tremendous screen presence. He seemed even more comfortable in The Rundown though, and his anti-hero character Beck is immensely likable. I’ve got to give the guy his due – not only does he do many of his own stunts, but he really knows how to pick projects that are suited to his abilities and seems to be really intent on improving as an actor.

    Of course, most every hero needs a partner in crime, and The Rundown serves one up. In this case, Seann William Scott (best known as Steve Stifler from the American Pie franchise), who is slightly less animated than usual, plays the role of reluctant sidekick to Beck. Fortunately, the chemistry between Mr. Scott and The Rock works quite well, and they play the obligatory bonding scenes into more than a few laughs.

    In any action film, it is also crucial to have a really good villain; someone the audience can really root against. In The Rundown this was addressed by casting the extremely gifted Christopher Walken in the role of Cornelius Hatcher. Walken is great in this film (isn’t he always?), playing a wonderfully eccentric baddie who spews out clever one-liners and tales of the tooth fairy. Undoubtedly, casting can make or break a film, and once again, the colorful cast assembled by the filmmakers really helped turn this fairly typical story into something a little more special.

    Bottom line, The Rundown is a fun, high-octane adventure that is worthy of repeat viewings! Hopefully, it is also an indication of the return of blockbuster action films that don’t head straight for the video store.






    SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
    Presented in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) by Universal, the slick and stylish The Rundown looks smashing on DVD! The image boasts exceptional fine detail, deep blacks and gorgeous color reproduction. To be more descriptive, flesh tones are very natural in their appearance, and the lush green and rich earth tones of the “Brazilian” jungle are perfectly saturated! The extremely clean print is also completely free of specks or other debris, as one would reasonably expect from a recent big-budget production.

    Most impressively, shadow delineation is good even in sparsely lit night scenes, and I did not notice any compression artifacts or overt signs of edge enhancement, despite the fact that the film, three audio tracks, and a wealth of special features are all contained on one disc. A couple of scenes exhibit a slight softness, but the picture is never lacking in detail, and there really is nothing to complain about otherwise. Plain and simple, the nonstop mayhem and beautiful locations in The Rundown are rendered splendidly!!! Great job Universal!




    WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
    Speakers beware, for the cacophony of sound that accompanies the action sequences in The Rundown is coming for you in the form of a stellar Dolby Digital 5.1-channel surround mix! As you all are no doubt sick of reading, I favor DTS soundtracks, and was initially disappointed that The Rundown does not feature a DTS track. Thankfully, my disappointment was short lived, as this audio track is way beyond satisfactory!

    To begin with, frequency response is excellent across the audible spectrum, and dialogue is reproduced naturally, without any distracting audio anomalies like hissing or sibilance.
    The energetic, Latin-flavored score sounds great as well, and exhibits tangible instrument separation even during chaotic action sequences.

    Now that we have covered the small stuff, let me talk a little bit about how the action sequences sound (of which there are plenty of)! For simplicity’s sake, let’s just say that the aggressive surround channel use and powerful bass response create an engaging and raucous, yet well balanced, aural experience that places the listener squarely in the middle of the action. Bullwhip cracks, gunfire, and explosions all fill the room with sound, but subtle details like the sounds of the jungle or bullet casings hitting the ground are given no less attention.

    For all of these reasons, I am inclined to rank The Rundown’s audio up there with the finest Dolby Digital soundtracks I have heard! A DTS mix would have been welcome, but this bold and dynamic track should not disappoint!




    EXTRAS, EXTRAS!!!


    Audio Commentary #1
    The Rock and Director Peter Berg provide the first of the two included feature-length commentary tracks. Sadly, although I was really looking forward to hearing what these two fellows had to say, their commentary track is extremely disappointing. To be honest, there is almost no insight provided into the creative process, and their commentary is incredibly dull, unless you want to hear about how The Rock would fight Tom Arnold (repeatedly). Some of the very few highlights included:

    --- A brief discussion about the difficulty in coming up with a good introduction to Seann William Scott’s character.

    --- Originally the “tooth fairy” monologue delivered by Hatcher was about Winnie the Pooh and Rabbit, but it was dropped for fear of a lawsuit.

    --- Berg discusses some of the alterations that had to be made to the monkey sequence for the film to receive a Pg-13 rating, instead of an R.


    Audio Commentary #2
    The second feature length commentary track, provided courtesy of Producers Marc Abraham and Kevin Misher, is much more insightful and entertaining than the one featuring the more notable pair of The Rock and Peter Berg. Specifically, the pair imparts plenty of behind-the-scenes information, and tells a lot of interesting stories about the film, the cast, and the process of getting it made. Some of the highlights included:

    --- A detailed discussion about how the production was moved from Brazil to Hawaii after several of the executives were robbed during a location scouting trip.

    --- Thoughts on how difficult (and costly) it was to secure the services of Christopher Walken for the picture, even though the results were worth it.

    --- Discussions about several deleted scenes and discarded concepts throughout the film.

    If you only have the time (or interest) to watch one of these commentaries, make this the one! Unless you want to develop a strategy for fighting Tom Arnold of course! [​IMG]


    Rumble In The Jungle
    “Rumble in the Jungle” is an entertaining featurette that breaks down some of the film’s action sequences via interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of rehearsal and fight choreography. Specifically, there is a lot of footage from the awesome sequence where Beck fights the rebels, and footage of a fight involving Seann William Scott that was cut from the film. Finally, the Rock and Seann William Scott talk about how doing their own stunts benefits the film.


    The Amazon – Hawaii Style
    In this brief featurette, Director Peter Berg discusses how the film was moved to Hawaii from Brazil after bandits robbed the crew. Subsequently, the principal cast discusses their experiences working in Hawaii. There is also a nice shot of Peter Berg being dared into cliff diving by members of the crew.


    Appetite for Destruction
    The “Appetite” featurette outlines the set-up and execution of three of the major stunts in the film: a vehicle explosion, the collapse of a water tower, and the coordination of the cattle stampede. In addition to discussions with the cast, there is plenty of behind-the-scenes footage of these stunts being captured on film.


    The Rundown Uncensored
    This brief, tongue-in-cheek featurette consists of interviews with Kevin Keith (Animal Trainer), Kamila the baboon, Peter Berg, Seann William Scott, and the Rock, who discuss the Rock’s blossoming on-set romance with Kamila. Mr. Keith also briefly discusses how the professional relationship between Peter Berg and Kamila turned sour. An off-the-wall, and quite funny, addition to the absurd number of extras!


    Running Down The Town
    In this short extra, production designer Thomas Duffiled takes viewers through the construction of the rain forest town of Hell Dorado, which was built in Los Angeles. He also points out the minute details on some of the buildings, based on Brazilian architecture, that viewers might not notice without looking very carefully. Not terribly entertaining, but I certainly have a deeper appreciation for the impressive achievements of the craftsmen who built Hell Dorado now.


    Walken’s World
    This all too brief extra (I love Christopher Walken!) features a quick interview with the great man, who quickly describes his character, as well as tour of Hatcher’s HQ and an overview of some of the one-liners his character spews out. There is also some interesting footage of Peter Berg and Walken working through a scene before it is shot.


    Deleted Scenes
    There are a total of 9 deleted scenes included, some of which are rather long and elaborate, including a cool fight between Travis and Harvey. The best one (in my opinion) however, was an alternate take of Hatcher’s final scene in the film. Funny, but wisely cut.


    Cast and Filmmakers
    Brief bios and filmographies are provided for:

    CAST:
    --- The Rock
    --- Seann William Scott
    --- Christopher Walken
    --- Rosario Dawson
    --- Ewen Bremner

    FILMMAKERS:
    --- Peter Berg (Director)
    --- R.J. Stewart (Screenwriter)
    --- James Vanderbilt (Screenwriter)
    --- Kevin Misher (Producer)
    --- Marc Abraham (Producer)
    --- Karen Glasser (Producer)
    --- Vince McMahon (Executive Producer)
    --- Ric Kidney (Executive Producer)


    Easter Eggs (numbered in the order I found them in):
    #1 – On the “Cast and Filmmakers Menu” highlight Christopher Walken and press left
    #2 – On the “Cast and Filmmakers Menu” highlight Peter Berg and press left
    #3 – On the “Languages” Menu, highlight Engligh 5.1 and press up
    #4 – On the Main Menu, highlight Scenes and press up

    Apparently, there are 16 more Easter Eggs hidden throughout this release, but they proved to be somewhat elusive. Since the three I have listed above were entertaining, it is probably worth the effort to find the others. Happy hunting!!!

    Trailers
    Though I would not call them “extras” pre se, the disc begins with previews for Beyond the Mat, Honey, and The Skulls III, which can be fast-forwarded through.



    SCORE CARD

    (on a five-point scale)
    Movie: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Video: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Audio: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Extras: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Overall: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]



    THE LAST WORD
    Not only is The Rundown a loud, fun, and stylish film that harkens back to the action vehicles of the 1980s, but, it turns out to be a great DVD release, which presents the film in an absolutely fantastic way! The anamorphic transfer is a thing of beauty; the boisterous audio track does a splendid job of rendering the source material; and there is a simply insane amount of extras, most of which are worthwhile!

    If you like action films, even a little bit, do yourself a favor - Rundown and grab yourself a copy of this DVD from your local retailer! Highly recommended!!!


    Stay tuned…
     
  2. Casey Trowbridg

    Casey Trowbridg Lead Actor

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    Jason, thanks for the review, you've got me really pumped to see this when my copy arrives.


    I love how Vince McMahon gets these credits of executive producer. He's called an executive producer, and in exchange he lets the studio use "The Rock" in advertising instead of Duane Johnson.

    Jason, will you be reviewing the new Beyond the Mat Disc?

    Thanks again, I'm definitely looking forward to this one.
     
  3. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

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  4. Zen Butler

    Zen Butler Producer

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    Stellar review Jason. I won one of these, now I'm looking forward to it!
     
  5. David_Blackwell

    David_Blackwell Screenwriter

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    Jason, why aren't your links (to other threads) working?

    Now I have to hunt down the Easter Eggs.

    Be seeing You,
    David Blackwell
     
  6. David_Blackwell

    David_Blackwell Screenwriter

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    here's another Easter Egg:

    Put the DVD into a DVD-ROM drive.
    Go to Bonus Features. Scroll down to DVD-ROM on the second page. an icon appears. Push Enter.

    Be Seeing you,
    David Blackwell
     
  7. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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    Since I'm forced to either watch or fast-forward through the trailer for this every time I watch "American Wedding", I'll have nothing to do with this movie.
     
  8. Matt_H

    Matt_H Stunt Coordinator

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    How bad was the script that it was hard to get Walken to do it? He was in Kangaroo Jack and Joe Dirt! Liked the movie though and I'll get it if I can come up with the money.
     
  9. Matt Butler

    Matt Butler Screenwriter

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    I missed Scorpion King but Ive heard The Rock is a good screen presence. Ill give this one a spin for sure. ]

    Nice review as ususal. [​IMG]
     
  10. Michael Pakula

    Michael Pakula Second Unit

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    I will be picking this up mainly for Arnold Schwarzenegger since I like to collect all his movies
    but I did actually enjoy this one too so it's good to hear the DVD turned out good.


    -Mike
     
  11. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the review! I had a blast with this in the theater, looking forward to seeing it again.



    It had been my understanding the Vince had helped with money for the budget in exchange for the credit. I remember reading the Dwayne Johnson was able to purchase the rights to the Rock name and he can now use it without WWE approval. I could be wrong, but that's what I thought....
     
  12. Darren Haycock

    Darren Haycock Second Unit

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    I liked the Rock in Scorpion King, fun flick. Missed this in theaters, but looks pretty entertaining. I'll probably end up pickin' it up...
     
  13. CoreyII

    CoreyII Second Unit

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    I saw this movie in the theaters and absolutely loved it. As I have said before this film is every bit as fun as Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
     
  14. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

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    Michael (post #10):

    If the only reason you are picking this up is to see Arnold, I suggest saving your money! I don't think this will spoil anything so I'll just come out and say it - his appearance is a cameo if there ever was one!

    In any event, if you do buy/rent it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! Just make sure you turn it up loud enough to disturb your neighbors! [​IMG]

    Cheers,

    Jason
     
  15. CaptDS9E

    CaptDS9E Cinematographer

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    I got a hold of a copy a few days ago. Excellent DVD. I second the high recommendation

    capt
     
  16. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    Great review, Jason! I really liked this movie too! If "mindless action movies" are what you're after, I'd take 1/3 of The Rundown over the whole of Bad Boys 2.

    You now have me officially psyched for this DVD.
     
  17. Lou Sytsma

    Lou Sytsma Producer

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    Missed it in the theater looking forward to seeing it at home.
     
  18. Tony-B

    Tony-B Producer

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    I'll definitely rent this movie. It looks to be a really fun one to watch.
     
  19. Greg S

    Greg S Supporting Actor

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    Getting this on release day for sure. I like SK and I really wanted to see this in the theaters but never made it (neither did a lot of folks based on the box office numbers).

    Thanks for the review!!

    Greg
     
  20. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

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    Love the disc and love the movie, but is the trailer for the film anywhere to be found? Easter egg or otherwise, I couldn't find it.
     

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