A Pleasant surprise in “The Rundown”

The best movies are those that exceed expectations. One will sometimes see a movie solely out of boredom, on a whim or out of morbid curiosity, only to walk out of the theater with mouth agape, eyes glazed over and a confused look on your face asking, “What just happened?” There’s nothing quite like a good surprise, and seeing “The Rundown” because your roommates forced you to is as good a surprise as any.

“The Rundown” stars professional wrestling icon The Rock (“The Scorpion King”) as Beck, a reluctant bounty hunter out to settle his mob debts by finding a treasure-hunting archaeologist in Brazil. Seann William Scott (“American Pie”) plays the archaeologist, Travis, who has pissed off some very bad men. Finding Travis proves easy for Beck, but dragging him home to face the music is a different story after Beck runs afoul of Hatcher (Christopher Walken, “Catch Me If You Can”), a corrupt mine owner who wants Travis’ latest priceless discovery for himself.

Few things are more satisfying than watching Scott, the man who agreed to play Stifler on three separate occasions, get his ass kicked across a jungle by a professional wrestler. Just the thought of it makes me giddy. Those who are unfamiliar with The Rock’s professional wrestling career will be amazed at how funny he is. The man is a walking, talking, ass-whooping cartoon, and his chemistry with Scott is fantastic. Think “Lethal Weapon” with sex-crazed monkeys.

Nevertheless, Christopher Walken steals the show as Hatcher, a completely over-the-top comic villain who never loses his sinister edge. This movie is everything that made him famous taken to a higher level. Once you listen to him try to explain the concept of the Tooth Fairy to his non-English-speaking henchmen, you’ll never be the same.

Peter Berg’s (“Very Bad Things”) direction is surprisingly good, though it’s too busy at times as he tries to give the film emotional weight it doesn’t have or even need. To his credit, though, there is a beautifully executed Capoeira fight scene that has all the suspense and pacing that similar fights in “The Matrix Reloaded” lacked. If you don’t know what Capoeira is, then finding out is almost worth the price of admission all by itself.

“The Rundown” really isn’t anything special – it has a standard plot with flashy but derivative direction. But it’s brisk, it’s fun and its creators exceed their own expectations, and the audience’s, too.

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