Rundown, The (US - BD)
Gabe takes a belated look at the Rock's best movie in high definition video...
A ‘retrieval expert’ named Beck (Dwayne Johnson) needs one last job to break even with his mobster boss and open a restaurant. The last job is scheduled, and Beck’s off to Brazil to retrieve his boss’ son Travis (Seann William Scott), who fancies himself a treasure hunter. Travis holds important information pertaining to the location of the fabled Gato del Diablo idol, which is also sought by the evil mining town operator Cornelius Hatcher (Christopher Walken), and the local rebels.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is a one of a kind entity in Hollywood as of yet—a pro wrestler with real charm that can really act. Johnson still hasn’t found a real breakthrough role (many of his best performances are featured in bad films), the one that lets the critics know exactly what he has in him. Those of us with realistic expectations see more in him than from the previous generation contemporaries (Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, and other terrible ex-wrestlers you still think are good). Assuming he doesn’t seek a career in politics, and digs his way out of kid’s movies I can honestly see Johnson making his way into an Oscar rumoured role. I don’t think he’s actually ever going to win an Oscar, or even see a real nomination, but I can imagine some ‘buzz’.
The Rundown, or as my British friends call it Welcome to the Jungle, is probably Johnson’s best role to date, or at least the one that best plays to his strengths. He plays the major straight man to a world of comic relief, and he plays him with such humility that the character really isn’t comparable to any recent action heroes. Johnson is also surrounded with three big personalities, who are stuck in pretty overstated roles. Christopher Walken plays a larger than life villain, Seann William Scott plays an equal time comedic sidekick, and Rosario Dawson plays a super-strong female support that isn’t too romantically aimed. It’s all very obvious in its intent, but it works for what ails you… or the Rock.
The plot features a lot of borrowed elements, mostly from the buddy cop genre, and a few from Indiana Jones inspired adventure flicks, but The Rundown doesn’t feel like a retread. The clichés are embraced in the proper fashion, and the cast and crew is all in on the relative comedy of the situation. There is a seriousness to certain sequences (some of the evil tyrant Walken scenes push the easy going nature), but tonally speaking humour is not far behind any display of action or drama. There’s never a point that the audience genuinely suspects that a happy ending isn’t in the cards, yet the ride is still entertaining and efficient.
Director and occasional actor Peter Berg has moved on to more serious work like The Kingdom, but I (not having seen Hancock yet) still consider this his best film overall, balancing his strengths just as he balances Johnson’s. The action direction is incredibly adept, and encompasses a great deal of styles, including shoot-outs, different brands of fist fight, and some pretty big blow-ups. The only thing missing is an effective car chase, which Berg remedied with a real doozey in The Kingdom.
Peter Berg isn’t the most original man in the ‘perfectly capable, but not overly interesting’ box, but his films all look as good, if not better than the most of the contemporaries. The Rundown features the director’s defining visual element—high contrast. The original DVD release already looked pretty great, so long as there was a surplus of daylight on screen, and this hi-def release is still a marked improvement. The blacks are deeper, the colours are more saturated, and the details are razor sharp. The lush greens of the forest are almost monochromatic at points, creating a swath of colour to contrast the cast’s appearance, which is generally varying shades of brown. When warm highlights appear they’re solid and crisp. The transfer’s big advantages over the standard definition release are found in darker scenes, where increased resolution reveals hidden details, and cleans up noisy clumps. 1080p tends to point towards some of the film’s budgetary shortcomings, including more obvious sets (the colours don’t match), and digital backlots, but is very impressive overall.
This new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is brimming with activity all throughout the production, intently revelling in the film’s larger than life nature. Every impact, vehicle engine, gunshot, and tree branch crackle is doubled in intensity, and all five point one channels interact with effective movement. Highlights include Johnson and Scott’s cliff tumble, Johnson’s fight with the native rebels, and especially the retrieval of the treasure, which fills the channels with cracking wood and falling boulders. The LFE channel works overtime in all respects, pumping with every punch, throbbing with every explosion, and rumbling with every drum hit. Harry Gregson-Williams’ score is predictable, but very well executed. The composure mixes tribal and traditional elements with more typical adventure cues, and a whole lot of really big drums, which echo loudly through the rear channels.
The extras included on this disc are the same that you guys already saw on the DVD release, starting with two commentary tracks, one featuring Johnson and director Berg, the other featuring producers Kevin Misher and Marc Abrahan. The producers’ track is pretty dull. Misher and Abrahan explain what’s happening on screen as if their audience were semi-literate children. Johnson and Berg have some uncomfortable silences, and make some really dumb jokes, but are personable enough, work well together, and are generally more entertaining.
The deleted and extended scenes are next, which are presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, and pro-logic sound, but are mostly finished products otherwise. There is one scene that actually explains some of what happened off screen, which some may’ve seen as necessary information, but the majority of the scenes are just dropped jokes and elongated fights. The scenes run about fourteen minutes.
‘Rumble in the Jungle’ is a semi-fluffy behind the scene look at the film’s fight choreography. There’s a lot of back patting and the like, but it’s still pretty informative, and run just over ten minutes. It’s followed by ‘The Amazon, Hawaii Style’, a five minute look at the Hawaiian locations used for the film, and the adventures the cast and crew had. ‘Appetite for Destruction’ looks at some of the film’s pyrotechnics, minus any interviews, for eight minutes. ‘The Rundown Uncensored’ is a joke featurette concerning the movies baboons. ‘Running Down the Town’ takes a quick look at the production design behind the pretend Brazilian town built for the film. Everything is completed with ‘Walken’s World’, a look at the sets Walken had dominion over during the film, and a look at Walken himself.
I would’ve liked to see the further adventure of Beck the bounty hunter, but I guess The Rundown didn’t do very well in American theatres, and the stars and director seem to have moved on to bigger, though not necessarily better things. This is still my favourite Dwayne Johnson, Peter Berg, and Seann William Scott film, and I recommend it relatively highly. The Blu-ray release looks and sounds better than the old DVD, but the extras haven’t changed or magically gotten any better.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 10th February 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 French, DTS 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, and Spanish
Extras: Director/Actor Commentary, Producers Commentary, Deleted Scenes, 'Rumble in the Jungle', 'Amazon: Hawaiian Style', 'Walken's World', 'Appetite for Destruction', 'The Rundown Uncensored', 'Running Down the Town'
Easter Egg: No
Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Rosario Dawson, Christopher Walken
Genre: Action, Adventure and Comedy
Length: 104 minutes
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