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Rocking into action

It’s about time the action hero baton was handed off to a new actor. Now that Arnold Schwarzenegger is busy with the gubernatorial election, someone has to take over. Just last year all the bets would have been on Vin Diesel. But tomorrow, bidding will start for The Rock.

Starring in The Rundown, Dwayne Douglas Johnson (aka The Rock) proves he can do more than smash chairs on the heads of his WWE opponents. Dismissed by some as an untalented brute, The Rock pulls his weight, delivering action and comedy — everything that an action hero must — with a straight face and a vengeful look.

The movie is a typical action flick with humor and explosions blended in good proportions. The Rock is Beck, a debt-collector, himself in debt to his boss. In an underdeveloped back-story, it is hinted that his boss knows something the audience does not. All the audience knows is that after his last job Beck will “wipe his slate clean” and be able to open his own restaurant.

But Beck is more than just a bully, he is described as a retrieval expert because his latest assignment requires him to retrieve and bring home his boss’ son, Travis (Seann William Scott).

Travis travels to the Brazilian jungle to discover an ancient artifact, the Gato, worth millions of dollars. But he searches in the part of the rainforest belonging to Hatcher (Christopher Walken), a gold mine-owning dictator and slave driver, who is determined to make as much money as he can. The fact that an outsider wants to take his “rightful” property does not make him a happy camper.

So, when Beck shows up in the jungle to retrieve Travis, he encounters two difficulties: Travis insists on finding the Gato and Hatcher insists on taking it from Travis. Fortunately, there is a girl named Mariana (Rosario Dawson). As in most other action flicks, this girl becomes the help and savior of the two main characters, but here she also has ulterior motives.

The story is not original, but it is well executed. The writing is tight and flows well. And there are enough wrestling moves and shoot out scenes for any action fan. But it’s not just a guy flick. The girls get an opportunity to witness both The Rock and Scott’s bared midriffs.

The film serves as testimony to the acting talents of The Rock. Given that there is not much emotion to play with here, he delivers his lines with conviction and does no worse than any action actor before him. Scott is the comic relief here, giving the same type of performance as he has in the American Pie series, but slightly more intelligently.

Walken is as bizarre as always, his random lines an ideal fit for his persona. He is, again and again, the perfect villain, due to his nervous look and idiosyncratic speech.

Being an action hero may not win The Rock an Oscar. In fact, it probably won’t even give him major recognition.

But if The Scorpion King and The Return of the Mummy were the keys to opening the door to his acting career, The Rundown is a swift kick that busts through the door. And while Arnie may or may not be getting ready for a new Terminator movie, that doesn’t stop him from a brief cameo in which he passes on the torch of the next action star.