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Friday, September 26, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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'Rundown' fills the action niche nicely

Seattle Times movie critic

Should "Under the Tuscan Sun" be a tad too pretty for your taste this weekend, simply cross the multiplex lobby and find "The Rundown," a movie so manly that its opening seconds feature football stats, people getting whomped on the head with large objects, and a fleeting cameo by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ah-nold, it appears, is passing the mantle of Beloved Yet Wooden Action Hero to a vast and amiable fellow known as The Rock, who here plays Beck, a "retrieval expert" sent on a mission to the Amazon jungle.

It should be noted that the guy sending Beck on the mission operates a meat grinder throughout their conversation, which is just about what you need to get the upper hand with this hulk — Beck is capable, we're shown, of beating up entire rooms full of people singlehandedly. But he meets his match in the Amazon, squaring off against rogue adventurer Travis (Seann William Scott), enigmatic siren Mariana (Rosario Dawson) and crackpot despot Hatcher (Christopher Walken).

While you won't exactly walk out humming the plot, "The Rundown" should go down quite decently with popcorn; it's got plenty of jungle action scenes reminiscent of "Romancing the Stone" or an Indiana Jones movie. Travis and Beck, at one point, have a nifty duel while dangling upside down from vines; and there's some downhill cliff-rolling that most definitely gathers moss (and spells doom for Beck's natty khaki suit).

Movie review


**½
"The Rundown," with The Rock, Seann William Scott, Christopher Walken, Rosario Dawson, Ewen Bremner. Directed by Peter Berg, from a screenplay by R.J. Stewart and James Vanderbilt. 98 minutes. Rated PG-13 for adventure violence and some crude dialogue. Several theaters.

The Rock has a nicely relaxed presence onscreen; he's not actually projecting emotion or anything like that, but none is needed. (And my hat is off to any performer who can deliver the line, "You're threatening me with pee," without giggling.) Dawson and her cleavage perform nicely (what, you want substance here?); Scott grins diabolically, in that Jim Carrey Jr. way of his.

And Walken performs his usual larceny — he not only steals the movie, he practically takes it to the pawn shop. The wild-haired Hatcher is a gentlemanly lunatic, speaking in seemingly an entirely different language from everyone else. After one setback, he launches into a diatribe that begins, "I feel like a little boy who has lost his first tooth" and ends with him barking "Do you understand the CAAAAAncept of the tooth fairy?" It's an inspired moment; entire movies can be built on less.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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