Better than the Real Thing: The Rundown

The Rundown is the greatest movie The Rock has ever done. It came out in 2003, co-starred Seann William Scott and Rosario Dawson (with Christopher Walken as the scenery-chewing – what else – villain) and has never been mentioned again. At least that’s what it seems like – especially when a film with The Rock touts him as the star of Tooth Fairy and Walking Tall. Sigh.

The Rundown is a throwback to the 80s era action stars (Schwarzenegger even makes a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it cameo) with The Rock – who will now be referred to as Dwayne Johnson, per his artistic request – as a muscle-bound henchman who wants to get out of the dirty business and open up his own restaurant. Okay, so maybe he’s not quite as pumped  with testosterone like the 80s era action stars.

The plot would be accurately described as “Midnight Run in a Jungle…with a whip and Christopher Walken.” Johnson is tasked with the tired “one last job” trope – bring in the boss’ no-good son (Seann William Scott) and he’ll get his big payday and start making an honest (culinary) living. Easy as that – except for one thing: Scott knows where a precious treasure is hidden, and the leader of the mining town (Walken) and his henchmen won’t let him leave until he gives up its location. Puts The Rock in a bit of a tough place.

It’s a great action-comedy movie that’s effortlessly enjoyable. Scott and Johnson make a surprisingly good pair and the antagonism between the two of them is believable and drives much of the film’s fun. I can only hope that others will watch this once they have exhausted the combined Seagal-Van Damme-Stallone-Schwarzenegger catalogue. It’s better than Commando, and trust me, I love Commando.

The two-minute scene I’ve picked up comes near the climax of the film. Johnson has sworn that he never uses guns because “bad things” happen when he does. However, when Scott is pinned down in a bus in the middle of a gunfight – Johnson has to make a choice: either stick to his “no-gun” policy or save the guy who has become his friend. He chooses to use the guns – much to everyone’s delight.

(Note: The above video got taken down. You’ll just have to rent The Rundown and watch the ending.)

It’s a great movie, but these two minutes are the ones that always bring me back.

Now, if only Johnson would make more movies like this and regain the title of this generation’s action superstar (I haven’t seen Faster yet, so if that’s a return to form let me know).

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5 Responses to Better than the Real Thing: The Rundown

  1. Julia Turnbull says:

    Hey Fraser,

    Another fabulous piece of writing. How many hits are you getting a day now??

  2. Helen says:

    Your post reminded me how much I enjoyed “The Rundown.” I can’t argue it being Johnson’s best film overall, although I did really enjoy his supporting turns in “Get Smart” and “The Other Guys.” It’s the great comic timing combined with his action star chops that makes me like him so much.

    “Faster” isn’t a return to form. Stylistically it’s bipolar. Johnson and Thornton’s characters inhabit a sort of grainy retro muscle-car Seventies exploitation flick, which isn’t bad for that sort of thing (the relationship between Thornton’s morally compromised cop and his estranged wife and son is even quite touching). But then the film makes a narrative triangle by throwing in a third killer who inhabits a sleek teenage male fantasy world of super-rich yoga-master playboy hired killers with super-hot girlfriends who fetch their man’s guns for him while dressed in black negligee and stilettos. I’m not kidding about the yoga part either.

    • Modest Movie says:

      Thanks for your comment Helen! I really hope that Johnson returns to form in his next couple of movies. This generation is severely lacking macho action stars (we had to claim the ones from the 80s as our own for The Expendables) and I think he’s the best of the bunch.

      After reading your quick review of “Faster” I think I’ll avoid it – or maybe pick it up when it hits the bargain bin just to see the yoga-master hired killer.

      Out of curiosity, what do you think is Johnson’s best film overall?

      • Helen says:

        I phrased that badly. 🙂 I was trying to say that while I agree “The Rundown” is his best film so far, I’ve enjoyed some of his other performances equally. People have laughed at me for this but I actually really liked him in “Escape from Witch Mountain.” It isn’t much more than a middling family film overall, but Johnson (unexpectedly, not the kids) plays the main character and he has the charm turned on full.

        “Faster” I would recommend to a Billy Bob Thornton fan, but Johnson is off screen so much at one point I forgot he was in the movie. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. He is wasted though.

  3. Modest Movie says:

    “Escape from Witch Mountain” – interesting choice. I’ll admit that I haven’t seen it yet (I tend to avoid any children’s films not made by Pixar these days) but I can imagine that with the charm turned on full he probably does a great job. Johnson effortlessly oozes charisma. He needs to get more leading roles though (not in cruddy films – Tooth Fairy, I’m looking at you). I’ll chalk it up to the inevitable cutesy action star movies – every “macho” man has to be put through one (Schwarzenegger in Junior, Vin Diesel in The Pacifier). Now that Johnson’s done his time he can start making the spiritual successor to The Rundown, I can only hope.

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