Saturday, October 5, 2013

Instant Action: The Rundown (2003)

Monkeys are freaky dude, my wife will attest to that!

Screenplay By: R.J. Stewart & James Vanderbilt
Directed By: Peter Berg

It's amazing what a pair of charismatic leads can do for a film. The Rundown has some decent elements, but take away Dwayne Johnson or Seann William Scott and The Rundown is a decidedly average action film. Misters Johnson and Scott bring the comedy when they need to, they are easy to relate to, and they sell the action really well. They also create a great buddy dynamic between the two of them, perhaps the most important element to the success of The Rundown. Beck is the big man and Travis is the little man, and their back and forth plays off of that. It's the basis for their relationship, and it's behind all of the action they endure and the comedy they produce. Misters Scott and Johnson ooze charisma in The Rundown, and they are almost solely responsible for the film succeeding like it does.

The action in The Rundown is a mixed bag. It seemed to me that Peter Berg couldn't decide on whether he wanted to do a traditional action film or take a Chaos Cinema approach. The best scenes are the ones where he takes a more traditional approach. The weakest are those where he attempts to mimic Michael Bay's Chaos Cinema style. The opening fight in a night club is full of lots of action, but it was damn hard to stay focused on the action and where characters had been/were ending up. There's also a moment during the final showdown where Mr. Berg slow cranks the action and does a lot of close up cutting. This was highly disorienting and distracted from the action. In contrast to those moments were the more traditional action scenes such as the jungle fight. That sequence is as fine of an example of high quality action filmmaking as one could hope for. The action is easy to follow and at the same time is very inventive and makes great use of Mr. Johnson's size and wrestling background.

The story in The Rundown is a very simple one. That doesn't mean it's a detriment to the film, but it does mean that the moments near the end that are trying to carry some sort of emotional weight are straining. There was no need for the sentimentality at the end of the film, Misters Johnson and Scott had sold me on their relationship and characters without need of such heart string pulling. The Rundown is a classic good guys versus bad guy where the good guys don't realize they are good guys story. It works just fine in the film, but I personally would have liked to of seen about ten to fifteen minutes of the story cut as the sentimental moments didn't add anything to the film.

I had hoped for more from The Rundown, but I still enjoyed what Mr. Berg's film gave me. This should have been the film that signified Mr. Johnson's emergence as an action star. Alas that was not to be and it would be around six to seven years before Mr. Johnson would truly be accepted as an action star by just about everybody. Still, The Rundown is a pretty darn good film with a coupe of nice action sequences and a great buddy pairing in the leads. It's shaky at times, but The Rundown should satisfy most action fans out there.



Bill Thompson

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