The Rundown (2003)

Coming not-so-fresh off The Scorpion King, wrestler-turned-actor The Rock (not yet billed as Dwayne Johnson) fully earned his action-hero credentials in the enjoyable comedic adventure romp The Rundown.

He plays a “retrieval expert,” which mostly means he collects gambling debts, by force if he has to, although he hates guns. Eager to get out of the biz, he’s cajoled into the requisite One Last Job: plucking the boss’ snot-nosed son (American Pie’s Seann William Scott) out of Brazil and bringing him back home to L.A. Scott, however, doesn’t want to go, seeing as how he’s stumbled on to a treasure he’s hidden in the jungle – a treasure also wanted by a group of rebels led by barmaid Rosario Dawson, as well as the poor city’s devious slave ring owner Christopher Walken, (who is, no shock, 100 percent pure Walken).

So The Rock and Scott get to bicker and spar like The Defiant Ones, forging a bond only out of necessity to stay alive. They find themselves in the middle of a machine-gun riot, at the mercy of hallucinogenic fruit and having their faces humped by crazed monkeys. Their greatest adversary proves to be Ernie Reyes Jr. (the Surf Ninjas star all grown up), who unleashes his “spinning Tarzan jujitsu” on The Rock, in not only the film’s best fight scene, but best scene, period.

I’m not so much surprised by how pleasurable The Rundown is to watch than I am how charismatic The Rock is on screen. He’s a natural, a logical heir to the throne of Arnold Schwarzenegger (who cameos early in the film to pass the torch, so to speak) and can dispense lines like “You’re threatening me? You’re threatening me with pee?” with note-perfect delivery. —Rod Lott

Buy it at Amazon.

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