The Rundown

In life, it is often good to have a career that combines your talents and interests as there can be nothing more frustrating than not being able to utilize your talents to their full extent. For Beck (The Rock), his talent for finding people who do not want to be found has made him a very in demand individual albeit reluctantly. Beck longs to get out of the business and start his own restaurant, but a poor decision from his past has caused him to work for until his debt is repaid.

Hope arrives for Beck when he is sent to South America to retrieve son Travis (Sean William Scott) who has caused issues for his father and must return to make amends. Beck is promised $250,000 and a complete erasure of his debt upon completion of the assignment. With the chance to at last open his restaurant in sight, Beck arrives in El Dorado and locates in a mining town that is run with an iron fist by a man named Hatcher (Christopher Walken), and his army of goons.

Beck is allowed to take Travis home for a fee but things do not go as planned, as Beck and Travis seem find themselves at odds with Hatcher and running for their lives into the dense jungles.

An interesting subplot to the film has Travis looking for a valuable artifact known as El Gato that has great interest to a local lady named Mariana (Rosario Dawson), who sees the idol as a chance to release the towns people from the control of Hatcher who also covets the artifact for his own needs. What follows are some humorous and segments as Beck and Travis verbally and physically spar with one another, rebels and over amorous monkeys as they attempt to avoid Hatcher and reach the airfield.

What makes “The Rundown” work is the solid chemistry between The Rock and Scott who seem to be having a great time making the film. The action in the film is fun and blends in well with the humor without being forced. Walken is good as the comedic yet evil Hatcher and gets the majority of the films best lines. Yes the story is not that deep but director Peter Berg keeps things moving at a steady pace and makes “The Rundown” a pleasant surprise and should establish The Rock firmly as an action star to contend with.
4 stars out of 5

The Scorpion King
The spin off like the sequel has long been a staple of Hollywood. Simply put, if a show is a success, and if sequels are pending, then a new creation using situations, characters, or events from the original may be a success on their own. The practice has been successful in television as shows such as “Mork and Mindy”, “Joanie Loves Chachie”, and “Laverne and Shirley” all sprang from the success of “Happy Days” The trend does not work as well in films as we have the disasters of “Supergirl” and “Soldier” as reminders.

While the creators of the Mummy series are planning the third big screen outing for Imotep and his legions, writer Jonathan Hales and director Chuck Russell have devised a new series based on a character from “The Mummy Returns” and have created “The Scorpion King” The film stars wrestler Dwane (The Rock) Johnson as Mathayus, one of the few remaining members of his people who are noted for their skills as assassins. It seems that a evil leader named Memnon, (Steven Brand), has taken power by force and has destroyed the few remaining tribes until only a handful from each remain in opposition to him. Aided by a stunning sorcerer named Cassandra (Kelly Hu), armies are powerless before Memnon as his sorcerer can see what is to come and allow him to plan accordingly. In a last ditch effort; a leader has hired Mathayus and his men to kill the sorcerer thus allowing their forces to stand against Memnon on equal footing.

Things do not go as planned, and soon Mathyaus is battling for his life in one action packed situation after another as he strives to complete his task and find his destiny in doing so.

I expected this film to be fairly uninspired as it was created very quickly following last summers “The Mummy Returns” and seemed to be little more than an excuse to cash in on the previous films in the series. Instead, the film is an action packed romp, which is enjoyable and lightweight. The characters in the film have some jovial moments and this works well with the action. Grant Heslov is good as a thief who seems to get himself into trouble at every turn yet is a devoted and loyal friend to Mathyus. The comedic banter flows well without seeming forces and gave the impression that the cast was having a good time making this film, as there seemed to be a genuine chemistry amongst them. Johnson was good in the title role, as he does not try to do more than he is capable of and works well with the cast. He is capable of being tender and fierce yet is capable of getting a laugh when the scene calls for it. Kelly Hu is dazzling as Cassandra as her beauty and grace light up the screen and bode well for her future work. She seems to be having a great time with the character and even gets involved in the action with Johnson and Michael Clark Duncan when things get intense.

While I could pick on the film for not having a very deep plot, as you have seen this story in films ranging from “The Beastmaster”, “Conan” and “The Sword and The Sorcerer” and some scenes borrow heavily from the Indiana Jones films, I had a good time. I would like to have seen a bit more depth to the character of Mathyus such as how he came to be where he is, how his people were lost and what motivates him, but for what it sets out to be “The Scorpion King” works. This is a film that aims to be a summer popcorn flick with a nod to the action serials that inspired it and it works. The focus is on characters and action rather than a deep plot and character depth. The film moves at a brisk but never hectic pace and is a nice diversion for 90 minutes. Lets hope that should we see another Scorpion King, the filmmakers take a lesson from the first one and let the stars and the action carry the film rather than a ton of special effects.

3 stars out of 5