Peter Berg's 1998 directorial debut, the aptly titled Very Bad Things, marked the nadir of the last decade's widespread Quentin Tarantino worship, reducing a much-emulated sensibility to ugly nihilism and an endless succession of stylistic tricks. Berg returns to the director's chair for The Rundown, a forgettable mismatched-buddy action-comedy that thankfully affords him little opportunity to reprise his debut's grating misanthropy and stylistic excess. The result rises to the level of mediocrity thanks largely to the magnetic presence of The Rock, who's made a smooth transition from professional wrestling to leading-man status with this and The Scorpion King, passable vehicles that coast on their star's natural charisma. Here, he plays an aspiring restaurateur who earns a semi-honest living retrieving people for money. Smirk enthusiast Seann William Scott co-stars as one of his assignments, a Stanford dropout–needless to say, Scott is more plausible as a dropout than as someone accepted to Stanford–who has gone searching for treasure in the jungles of Brazil. Before The Rock can take Scott back to his father, he must first deal with evil businessman Christopher Walken, whose exploitation of indigenous people in hazardous mines allows the film to take a bold, controversial stance against indentured servitude. Rosario Dawson looks good and acts noble as a revolutionary leader, but this is pretty much a boy's movie, full of explosions, fighting, and action scenes that owe more to Vince McMahon than Sam Peckinpah or John Woo. Take away The Rock's goofy charisma and Walken's trademark weirdness, and The Rundown could just as easily have been made in the '80s with Hulk Hogan and Andrew McCarthy in the leads. Arnold Schwarzenegger turns in a cameo early in The Rundown, essentially passing the funny-looking, muscle-bound action-hero torch to The Rock. The latter's viability as a movie star by this point seems assured, but he'd be wise to remember that for every Terminator in Schwarzenegger's filmography, there's also a Jingle All The Way or Collateral Damage.
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