PETER BERG’S THE RUNDOWN — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Peter Berg’s The Rundown is as good as PG-13 actioners are likely to get. High on style and made with a considerable amount of tongue-in-cheek humor, this was Berg’s first “big” Hollywood production, and still stands as an extremely entertaining piece of nonsense that deserved to do more than $48 million domestic. Starring The Rock before he was THE ROCK, this is the type of movie that has become a fan favorite because of DVD and cable airings; I wouldn’t be surprised if a sequel got made now that The Rock is a brand-name institution. Co-starring funnyman Sean William Scott (where’s he hiding?), the extra-sexy Rosario Dawson, and Christopher Walken in a wildly over the top bad guy performance that rivals his scenery-chewing in Kangaroo Jack, the fast moving plot escalates from the very beginning, with the exotic action set in the jungle, and involving a bounty hunter tracking down his boss’ AWOL son. The energetic script by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac, White House Down) is essentially a clothesline to hang various action set-pieces, all of which were shot and cut with tremendous zest in bold saturated colors and full 2.35:1 widescreen; Berg’s fairly-regular cinematographer Tobias Schliessler and editor Richard Pearson combined aesthetic forces and crafted an extremely slick and beautiful looking movie.

The jokes land more often than they miss, Berg’s muscular sense for action was on early display (and which would lead to future efforts like The Kingdom, Hancock, Lone Survivor, and this week’s new release, Deepwater Horizon), and again, Walken tore into each scene with hilarious gusto; he knew he was making an ass of himself in an otherwise disposable studio programmer, and he never looked back after his first utterance of hammy dialogue. His “Tooth Fairy” monologue is absolutely priceless, and I really get a kick out of the “passing of the torch” moment between Arnold Schwarzenegger (in a sly cameo) and The Rock during the opening beat-down set inside a busy night club. The trip-out by campfire sequence was an unexpected delight, as well; hallucinogenic drug humor is always a plus from where I sit. The Rundown is a mostly forgotten about flick that got saddled with a crappy late September release, and if it were to come out now in exactly the same fashion, it would likely become an instant blockbuster. Also, one of Walken’s henchmen utilizes a massive whip as his chief weapon of choice; huge fan of the whip as you rarely see it get busted out during modern action flicks. A small thing to be sure, but very memorable.

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