27 July 2004 | supertom-3
The Tom says: Good old fashioned rollicking action!
With the demise of box office power for the action man and a loss of interest from the public to watch the bad-ass hero, who says little but kicks a lot of butt, the kings of the genre Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sly Stallone and Willis's careers as action men seems all but over. Van Damme and Seagal were gone long ago. Should the main three want to do mainly action movies for the rest of the careers then they may need to do so in the DTV market. However, it does seem like the action movie could be getting a second wind. We have a plethora of new action heroes, none of whom will have the staying power of Schwarzenegger and also respected actors who play everyday men like Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, Nic Cage and Will Smith have turned in their fair share of action movies. The Rock does seem the ideal new action man, with his only real competition from wooden pretty boy Paul Walker and the now seemingly cursed to do crap movies, Vin Diesel (who in truth would be best as a baddie, like in Pitch Black.). The Rundown, while a box office disappointment has performed well on video but more importantly audiences really enjoyed it's delightfully 80's feel. It could almost be taken from Sly or Arnolds early career. It's not loaded with a hip new soundtrack, extreme sports or slick vehicles and loads of special effects merely to lure youngsters in to see it. It's modernised and stylised version of films like Commando (albeit much better than that.). The simplistic, one-liner laden films I used to love. Throughout the mid to late 90's as audiences got tired of that, and a lot of seeming re-hashes and Sly and co doing movies very similar to ones they had done before, meant that producers tried to give characters to these guys with more depth, without getting someone to write it decently and of course in the case of Schwarzenegger, trying to give a 3 dimensional person to someone who can't act.
Now as for Sly and Willis they have wasted a lot of their career doing action movies because it doesn't stretch them as actors. They are good actors given good roles, people forget Stallone got an Oscar nomination. The Rock is more like Arnold. He's limited in his acting chops but has a charm and likeability and a good presence and we can expect no more from him than simple roles, where his prerequisite is simply to cause carnage and emote on the odd occasion. I am glad we could see a reinvention of 80's action movies, Jackie Chan breathed new life ot the martial arts genre throughout the late 90's and the first years of this decade, but they seem to be wearing thin now so it seems some good old fashioned superhuman carnage could be on the cards, there's even the possibility of a new Die Hard, Rambo, True Lies and some new films like Spy Hunter. Even Van Damme and co in DTV land are going back to basics and not trying to test their acting, because truth be told for 99% percent of these action stars it's a test where failure is inevitable and it's not what their fans really want.
The Rundown is simplistic stuff. You have a simple premise and a setting that is prepped and ready to be blown up. You have a strange mix of central characters, with The Rock and Sean William Scott. Meaning there will be plenty of fast jive talking and one liners. You have your thespian in their as the bad guy. Christopher Walken in this case and your ready, you have the basis for a good fun action movie. This is great fun. Arnold and Sly would be proud to have this on their CV. In fact it is on Arnies CV because he has a cameo at the start which is effectively him passing the torch on to the Rock. There are no twists and turns of any really note but the important thing is that it is nicely paced it has a nice glossy sheen to the cinematography. There are few hints at them aiming for a particularly young and hip-hop or Nu Metal demographic like Fast And Furious or Jet Li's films have done, thankfully. It's cool without going over the top and blowing it's wad. I like the fact this isn't made for pimply teenagers first and foremost. It's made for action lovers, it's a loving and subtle gift to young adults, 20 something's who watched the action films in the 80's and early 90's when they were undemanding, untainted fun and far form the marketed tripe we get now.
The Rock is good here. He has improved so much from The Scorpion King. He has charisma he's got a natural screen presence and a charm. In fact he's more natural than Arnold with his acting, he even has more of a vulnerable side (although not that much). I do think that given time the Rock will be better than his sensei. He has after all only just started. He won't however have as high a standard of movies. Let's not forget Arnold hasn't only done good action films but good films and classic movies with the first 2 Terminators. What the Rock now needs is a box office hit. He hit it big with Scorpion King but since then his movies have not been hits, Walking Tall being a flop. His next, Spy Hunter which sees him team with action maestro John Woo has got fantastic hit potential and potential to be as good as this film. Sean William Scott is also good. He does his Stifler thing again and it's good. It's almost as much to do with how the Rock plays and reacts off him that makes his role funny. Of course Christopher Walken is good and he has a trademark and hilariously intense speech about the tooth fairy that will have you in stitches. Rasario Dawson is also good.
The action is great, some of the best this year I have to say. It's old fashioned carnage, not reliant on CGI. It's imaginative stuff and well thought out as well as being well edited. The Rock is a great ass-kicker. He performs most of his own stunts and has real natural ability to put on a show with his fights, thanks largely to his WWE background. Peter Berg handles the set pieces with poise.
This is a highly entertaining flick, bringing back pleasant memories and is one of the best action films in years. ****