Welcome To The Jungle (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner22/03/2004

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 104 mins

Enjoyably dumb action comedy that benefits from an eclectic cast, some good jokes and a couple of inventive action sequences.

Despite the fact that former TV wrestlers aren’t exactly known for their comedic acting ability (yes, Mr Hogan, we mean you), Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson surprised both critics and audiences alike with The Scorpion King back in 2002, proving that not only could he carry a film, he was also a bona fide comedic action star, combining the brawn of Schwarzenegger, the charisma of Bruce Willis, the booming voice of Stallone and the eyebrow-raising abilities of Roger Moore.

Almighty Bitch-Slapping Early Doors

Welcome to the Jungle, then, is everything you could possibly have hoped for from his second film, which comfortably survives a name-change from its US release title of The Rundown (usually a Very Bad Sign Indeed).

Dwayne plays Beck, a ‘retrieval expert’ who we first meet delivering an almighty bitch-slapping to an entire NFL football team in a night-club (in the first of several good gags, he calls his boss first to see if he can get out of hurting them too badly, as he thinks they have a good shot that season).

There’s even a moment where he passes Arnold ‘The Governator’ Schwarzenegger himself on the way out of the club; Schwarzy tells him to “Have fun” and it’s like, a symbolic passing of the Action Hero Baton. Or something.

Anyway, Beck is hired to travel to the Amazon and “retrieve” feckless fortune hunter Travis Walker (Seann William Scott), who is on the trail of a priceless artefact in the Brazilian jungle. When he arrives at the town of El Dorado (courtesy of Ewan Bremner’s incomprehensible pilot / guide), he discovers that weirdo expat Hatcher (Christopher Walken) runs a hellish goldmine that exploits the locals for slave labour, so he teams up with Travis and his foxy girlfriend Mariana (Rosario Dawson) to take Hatcher down in time-honoured action movie fashion.

Eclectic Cast Beneficial

The film benefits considerably from an eclectic cast, with Walken in particular on fine bonkers form. Scott is basically playing Stifler with a beard, which works well – his cocky smartarse persona makes him a natural second banana to The Rock, who displays the same level of comic timing and general likeability that served him so well in The Scorpion King. Dawson is also excellent, and for once her character is given more to do than simply exist for Shallow And Obvious Reasons (which she does admirably).

Some of the digital effects are a little dodgy but these are more than compensated for by some bizarrely original fight choreography, involving a sort of spinning ‘Tarzan-fu’. In addition, the film strenuously avoids resorting to shoot-outs, as Beck is opposed to them because “they take me somewhere I don’t want to go”, like some sort of weapon-addicted freak. That is until the final reel when he, quite literally, breaks out the big guns to kick some serious ass.

In short, Welcome to the Jungle combines likeable characters with good gags and decent action sequences - as a result, it’s whole lot of Big Dumb Fun and Johnson cements his growing reputation as a genuine action hero for the noughties. Here’s hoping his next film (Walking Tall) is as good as this…

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Content updated: 17/12/2017 04:26

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