Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Rundown (2003)


Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars as 'retrieval expert' Beck, an imposing man and capable fighter who is often sent to, well, retrieve things.  But when he is ordered to retrieve his boss's treasure hunting son (Seann William Scott) from the wilds of the Amazon, things get a little crazy . . . especially if the cruel and greedy owner of the nearby gold mine (Christopher Walken) and the obligatory hot bartender (Rosario Dawson) have anything to say about it.

I should love this movie.  It's cheesy action adventure from start to finish.  The Rock takes on forces that would impress Commando's John Matrix (speaking of which, while I love a good cameo--see, e.g., The Expendables and the otherwise disappointing Ocean's Twelve--this one felt like a forced non-sequitur).  And there are a lot of things I liked about it.  I liked the fight scenes.  I liked The Rock--with quiet gravitas, a good-hearted reluctance to use violence, and the comic timing required to pull it all together, he's shaping up to be quite a capable action star.  I liked Christopher Walken's over-the-top-and-yet-somehow-also-mailed-in performance.  I liked the bizarre Scottish pilot, especially when he was preaching damnation in a rather surreal prelude to the climactic final battle. 

So why didn't I love this movie?  Three words:  Seann William Scott.

I have had limited exposure to Mr. Scott in the past, never having jumped on the American Pie bandwagon.  But wow, I did not like him here.  Not that his acting was necessarily bad.  He was just . . . confusing.  It seemed like the filmmakers wanted him to be likable, at least by the end--a charming rogue, who starts out as a kind of a jerk but ends up being a decent guy.  A rehabilitated jerk.  Except I thought he seemed like kind of a jerk the whole time.  He never sacrificed anything for anyone, and he punked everyone every chance he got.  I found myself eagerly awaiting his comeuppance. Even the one arguably redeeming thing he did wasn't actually him doing a good deed so much as it was him opting not to do a hugely jerky deed.  And even then, he only abstained from total jerkitude because a) he'd already gotten what he wanted, and b) there was no way he would get away with it.  There was no character arc.  No lesson learned.  No humble pie consumed.  No friendship or shared respect established between himself and The Rock.  As such, the final resolution rang hollow.

I think the movie would have worked better if they'd had Mr. Scott's utterly self-involved character actually sacrifice for someone else--actually give up something he wanted.  Alternatively, they could have picked an actor with more of a charming vibe to counteract the less-than-charming behavior in the script. Someone who can play a likable jerk. Someone like, say, Adam Brody.

Even though my frustration and irritation with Mr. Scott sort of permeated the whole movie-watching experience for me, I have to admit that the rest of the film was quite enjoyable.

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