Feel the pain: <I>The Rundown</I> kicks ass

If you enjoy seeing other people get hurt– a lot– The Rundown may be your favorite movie since Raging Bull. I think I counted 17 times when The Rock– or his stunt double– must have gotten his back broken. And he wins most of the fights.

The Rundown is a change of pace for director Peter Berg (he's done some nice work on television, but his Very Bad Things was a very bad movie), who shows a flair for this kind of commercial, light-hearted action movie. Unlike in most of the summer blockbusters, you can actually tell who's doing what to whom in the action sequences.

The Rock stars as Beck, a "retrieval expert" who collects people and things for a not-very-nice guy, Billy Walker (William Lucking), in L.A. In the opening scene, Beck has to collect from a football player in a nightclub. The whole offensive line is there to back up their teammate, and Beck balks, not out of fear for himself, but because he's afraid of hurting the team's chances if he injures them. You'd think the guy would have a rep, but no one ever gives in to Beck without a fight.

Walker sends Beck to Brazil to fetch his son, Travis (Seann William Scott), a Stanford dropout who's down there searching for treasure, specifically a golden artifact known as Gato de Diablo, in the Amazon jungle.

The town is run by an American, Hatcher (Christopher Walken), who is like a pharaoh, making the locals work in his mines for slave wages. Then there's Mariana (Rosario Dawson), "barmaid by day, rebel leader by night," who wants the money the Gato will bring to free her people.

Travis is a combination of Indiana Jones and a circus clown. We're not sure whether he wants the Gato for the money or the glory of discovering it. Beck wants to complete his mission so he can collect $250,000 and quit to open a restaurant. Hatcher's motivation is the simplest of all: He wants everything.

After rolling down about a million-foot hill, Beck and Travis are stuck together in the jungle. They fight off horny monkeys, Mariana's rebels, and Hatcher's forces; and they fight each other when no one else is attacking them.

The script gets pleasantly loopy at times, especially when Walken is on screen, commenting on the action like a disinterested third party or trying to explain the concept of the Tooth Fairy to Brazilian natives.

The Rock is cool but funny while Scott is over-the-top wacky. They work well together, and we can expect to see an encore of their teaming.

Mostly everybody just endures more punishment than is humanly possible. I don't know what kind of sick, sadistic person would enjoy a movie like The Rundown, but I'm one of them.