Review: Walking Tall

Posted by: Mark McLeod  //  April 2, 2004 @ 11:59am

Filed under: Movie Reviews 

They say you can't go home again, but that's just what Chris Vaughn (The Rock) wants to do. After an 8-year stint in the army, Chris has decided to head home to the small mountain town he grew up in and start work at the local mill. Upon his return, he finds that the mill has been shut down by his old friend who took over ownership when his parents passed away. The once-thriving community is now supported solely by the town's new casino, run by a group of rather shady individuals. One night after an altercation with the casino's security team, Chris finds out that the casino is a front for a drug operation that is poisoning the youth of this community. When he confronts the police about this, they refuse to do anything, leaving Chris no choice but to take matters into his own lethal hands. Aided by his ex-girlfriend and now stripper (Ashley Scott) and a 4x4 piece of wood, Chris vows to turn the community back into the honorable place it once was and once again "Walk Tall".

Walking Tall is a remake of the 1973 picture of the same name, which starred Joe Don Baker as Buford Pusser. Like another recent remake of a classic picture, Kevin Bray's Walking Tall bears very little resemblance to its predecessor. Inspired by a true story, or so the opening credit sequence tells us, it's hard to imagine what in the source material led to a producer or executive thinking that this picture needed to be made. Directed by the aforementioned Kevin Bray, whose last film was the decent if not forgettable urban actioner It's All About the Benjamins, this is a highly flawed and ultimately boring piece of cinematic trash. Running a scant 85 minutes, 15 of which are the film's closing credits, I can't remember the last time I saw a film with so little plot. Most animated movies and even TV sitcoms have more plot to them than this. Not that action-themed movies need to have complex plots " sometimes less is more " however in this case I was left trying to figure out what exactly the point was. Sure the action was enjoyable to watch and I had a good time while The Rock was kicking ass, but in between those moments, the film just slowed down to an absolute crawl, almost to a laughable and unbelievable degree. The screenplay, if you can call it that, is credited to no fewer than 4 screenwriters with a 5th listed as having contributed to an earlier screenplay. Does it really take 4 people to write a movie so driven by action and not by plot? In this case, the answer seems to be yes.

Casting-wise this is by far a one man show for The Rock. Dwayne Johnson, aka "The Rock", has been called the most entertaining man in sports entertainment, and it shows in this film. Despite my reservations of his film project choices, there is no doubting that this man has a presence. You can't but help root for this guy as he's likable and a total hardcore action star. I would not be surprised to see him become the future of action movies now that the original action stars have long since gotten old and in Arnold's case, turned to running the state of California. Pure and simple, The Rock makes the time pass by much easier. With a lesser star in the role of Chris Vaughn, this movie would be nothing more than a B-movie renter. Surrounding Mr. Johnson is a cast made up of the most anonymous and average performers known to man. Cast probably for that very reason, all of the supporting players except Johnny Knoxville are simply screen dressing. Knoxville of Jackass fame has a minor role as one of Vaughn's old friends and while it's a step in the right direction, he's been better in his other film roles. Ashley Scott from the shortlived WB Series Birds of Prey looks good in the sole female role, but doesn't really say or do much.

All in all, Walking Tall is a popcorn movie and not a really good one at that. Those of you expecting anything more than mindless action are going to be massively disappointed. In a week that also includes the comic book action of Hellboy, the choice is really a no-brainer. Even my friend who's an insane WWE fan was less than thrilled with Walking Tall. Running a scant 70 minutes plus credits, this is one movie you can safely skip and wait for the video. The Rock is the man and deserves much better than this paper-thin excuse for a movie. I wasn't expecting much, but I was expecting more. The action is good, but even it wears a bit thin as the film goes nowhere. Walking Tall should have tried to walk taller. Not Recommended except for hard-core Rock fans, and even then I'd question paying anything more than the price of a discount matinee.

Mark McLeod has always loved film. In addition to his roles with ShowbizMonkeys.com, Mark also works on many film promotion projects in Vancouver, BC, through his company, Mark McLeod PR.

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