Welcome to the Jungle
cut to the chase
Ernie Reyes Jr.
Running Time: 104 minutes
UK Certificate: 15
Country: United States
Like Ronald Reagan before him, Arnold Schwarzenegger may have been lured from his acting career by Republican politics, but he still has time to anoint his cinematic successor. In a blink-and-you’ll miss-it uncredited cameo in ‘The Rundown’, the former Mr Universe says ‘Have fun!’ to Beck (ex -wrestler the Rock, aka Dwayne Johnson) as he passes him in a nightclub, and so hands on his muscle-bound mantle to the next big (in every sense) Hollywood hero. Moments later, Beck is taking on ‘the entire offensive line’ of an American pro-football team with little effort, and it is as though Arnie has been reincarnated on screen – except that, while Beck may be a kick-ass ‘retrieval expert’ of bull-like proportions and astonishing resilience, he is also genuinely eager to avoid violence (‘I don’t want to fight’ being his catchphrase), phobic about gun-use (until the inevitable pump-action finale, naturally), and really just interested in opening his own restaurant – and, unlike the he-men portrayed by Arnie, Sly and other eighties right-wingers (most of whom have in fact gone on to open their own restaurants), Beck can bang articulate sentences together as well as heads.
Think the Sopranos, Indiana Jones and il Mariachi in a Brazilian stand-off, and you will be somewhere near the madcap adventures of ‘The Rundown’. Sent by his gangster boss on ‘one last job’ to bring back the gangster’s son Travis (Seann William Scott) from Brazil, Beck is soon caught in a local war between ruthless American goldmine boss Hatcher (Christopher Walken) and native rebels, while helping Travis and mysterious barmaid Mariana (Rosario Dawson) in a race to find the legendary El Gato, a priceless golden statuette. With dynamic fight sequences, sweeping camerawork and a strong sense of fun, there hasn’t been this amount of dumb-assed monkeyshines in the jungle since ‘Congo’.
The Rock makes for a charismatic strongman, variously enduring beatings, whiplashes, plummets down cliffs and even an airborne flight into a tree, all without ever losing his cool or failing to be impeccably polite. Seann William Scott reprises his rôle as comic foil from Bulletproof Monk (although his martial arts are decidedly less honed here), his presence calculated to draw in fans of ‘American Pie’-style gross-out – which is duly delivered in the form of some aggressively randy primates (‘Establish dominance!’ shouts Travis usefully as Beck’s face is being humped). Looking like he has not left the jungle since ‘the Deer Hunter’, Christopher Walken gleefully hams up his cardboard villain, in particular in the scene where he tries to explain ‘the concept of the tooth fairy’ to a bewildered gang of non-English-speaking thugs.
Delve into the jungle canopy of ‘The Rundown’, and you will discover, lurking amidst all the lowbrow gags and stampeding action, some biting criticism of the US’s economic exploitation and enslavement of its southern neighbours, all carried out in the name of capitalist ‘modernisation’. Which suggests that should Dwayne Johnson, once he’s had his fun in the movies, ever choose to follow Schwarzenegger into politics, he may well be facing him as a candidate for the Democratic opposition. Now that’s a fight that would be worth seeing.
It's Got: Dumb footballers, monkeys in heat, whip-wielding fighters, capoeira high-kicks, subterranean boobytraps, hallucinogenic fruit, a cattle stampede, one (very big) man against a private army, and the opening line I just love mushrooms...
It Needs: To find a better balance between the serious political points and the gross-out comedy.
The greatest amount of dumb-assed monkeyshines in the jungle since 'Congo'.