Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A tough aspiring chef is hired to bring home a mobster’s son from the Amazon but becomes involved in the fight against an oppressive town operator and the search for a legendary treasure. – IMDB
Welcome to the jungle, Rock. You’re gonna die! Or so goes the admittedly obnoxious trailer for JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE starring Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black , and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson”. The late-arriving sequel to 1995’s Jumanji hit theaters yesterday, conjuring up memories of another jungle adventure starring the Rock that I wish had gotten a follow-up…THE RUNDOWN.
The year is 2003, and, up to this point, the Rock’s transition from the wrestling ring to the big screen has been a bit…er, rocky. While a bit role in 2001’s THE MUMMY RETURNS allows the actor to get in front of an audience unfamiliar with his crowd-pleasing WWF persona, his inexplicable MUMMY RETURNS solo follow-up, THE SCORPION KING, is a dull box office stumble. The Rock returns to his adoring WWF/E fans between film projects. Resulting in the Peter Berg-helmed THE RUNDOWN.Starring Seann WIlliam Scott (hot off a string of comedies such as AMERICAN PIE), the seemingly ageless Rosario Dawson, and an undeniably hilarious Christopher Walken, THE RUNDOWN is a distinctive moment in THE ROCK’s career for 2 reasons….
Starting off, this movie is the first in Dwayne Johnson’s career that actually knows how to utilize the performer. Tossing away the brooding tough guy default that most actors with notable physiques end up taking early in their career (See: Jason Momoa, Sylvester Stallone, etc.). Director Peter Berg (FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, LONE SURVIVOR) saw the charisma oozing out of The Rock and trusted that it was enough to get moviegoers on his side in a (reluctant) hero role.
The second reason, the film legitimizes Johnson as an action star by putting him in scenes with martial artists/stuntman Ernie Reyes, Jr. (THE LAST DRAGON, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (c’mon…do I need to list his filmography here?). The Arnold nod is particularly noteworthy because the TERMINATOR 2 superstar was transitioning away from acting and into politics. Whatever strings Peter Berg (and, I suspect, WWE’s Vince McMahon) pulled to get Schwarzenegger to do a cameo worked. Not only did it set the tone for the rest of the film (a playful buddy action-comedy), but telegraphed where The Rock’s career would eventually go.
In 2017 — despite a minor setback with this past summer’s BAYWATCH — Dwayne Johnson is a superstar and a household name. THE RUNDOWN may not have been a direct line to The Rock becoming one of the top-grossing movie stars in Hollywood, but it was a step in the right direction.