Beck (The Rock, left) and Travis (Seann William Scott) attempt to elude a mining titan's henchmen in the action-comedy "The Rundown."

The Rock flexes
acting muscles

Sometimes it's an actor that makes a movie good and sometimes it's the story. Or maybe it's the cinematography or, for action films, the amount of explosions. In "The Rundown," all these things meld together to produce an entertaining film set in "the Amazon," though everyone here will recognize Oahu as a co-star.

The movie may not blow you away with the force of Vin Diesel's "XXX," but the humor and rhythm of its stars show that The Rock and Seann William Scott may have the makings of an action-comedy team like "Bad Boys" Martin Lawrence and Will Smith or "Rush Hour" duo Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.

"The Rundown"

Rated: PG-13
Playing at: Consolidated Kahala, Kapolei, Koko Marina, Ko'olau Stadium, Mililani, Pearlridge West, Ward; Signature Dole, Pearl Highlands, Windward Stadium; and Wallace Keolu Center

In the story, partially filmed in Los Angeles, Beck (The Rock, a k a Dwayne Johnson), is a no-nonsense nice guy who wants no trouble while working as an enforcer for a loan shark named Walker (William Lucking), while dreaming of a more sedate existence as a restaurateur. But, chalk it up to plot device, he must complete one last, difficult job before claiming his ideal life.

There's more we've seen before. For instance, Beck doesn't like guns and relies on his body and wit when threatened. But such contrivances don't matter when the movie, directed by Peter Berg, is so fun to watch.

Beck's last task is to bring Walker's son Travis (Scott) back to Los Angeles. However, Travis is on a mission to find Amazon treasure and doesn't want to leave. To make matters worse for Beck, bad guy Hatcher (Christopher Walken) and Mariana (Rosario Dawson) don't want Travis to leave either, but each for their own reasons.

This is an action movie so there is a fight scene between Beck and a Brazilian rebel named Manito (martial arts champion Ernie Reyes Jr.), choreographed by Andy Cheng (he worked with The Rock on "The Scorpion King"), which shows the power and agility of both athletes through a combination of wrestling, martial arts and discreet CGI manipulation.

Christopher Walken brings his usual oddness to his villainous character, the head of a gold-mining corporation who's after the same treasure as Travis.

Rosario Dawson rounds out the cast, adding a requisite dose of sexual tension for a target audience of young adults.

But Scott was the biggest surprise and a treat to watch. He's most widely known as the teen cut-up Stifler in the "American Pie" movies, but seems to slowly be making a name for himself in the parallel universe of action movies. His role as Kar in "Bulletproof Monk," opposite Chow Yun-Fat, and now as Travis, shows he can bounce back and forth between action and comedy. (Scott also starred with Ashton Kutcher in "Dude, Where's My Car?" and had a cameo in "Old School.")

Travis and Stifler have a few similar characteristics -- a wise-cracking attitude and an eye for the ladies -- but Scott shows more maturity and depth in "The Rundown."

There is also a cameo appearance by Arnold Schwarzenegger at the film's beginning, in which he tells Beck to "have fun." Some say it's like the passing of the torch, from one action hero to another. It seems like we will be seeing more of The Rock as Schwarzenegger makes his own transition into politics.

In The Rock's movies ("The Mummy Returns" and "The Scorpion King") it was enough for him to show off his pro-wrestler's chiseled body in as few clothes as possible. But in "The Rundown" it seems that he went out of his way to keep his body covered, as if to say "there's more to my acting than my body."

There was only one scene where The Rock's torso was exposed and even when Travis, Mariana and Beck had to swim under a waterfall, The Rock remained fully clothed.

For an action picture, "The Rundown" isn't loud and isn't likely to make your heart race, but it flows smoothly, has its funny moments and still has you cheering for the good guys.

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