Published on March 26th, 2004 | by Erich Becker0
Review: Walking Tall
The Rock’s breakout performance was in the prequel to The Mummy, entitled The Scorpion King, where he reprised his role of the title character originally established in The Mummy Returns. Next up was last year’s The Rundown, and while the story was nothing to get excited about, it was the professional wrestler’s onscreen charisma with Seann William Scott that gave the film such an edge. Now the Rock is starring in MGM’s update to Walking Tall, a story of a man who returns home from the service to find his small, quaint town tainted with corruption, and just like the films before it, The Rock manages to save a film from mediocrity by simply appearing on screen.
The Rock (aka Dwayne Johnson) is Chris Vaughn, an Army vet who returns home after leaving the service to get reacquainted with his old life, visit old friends, and resume the life he had before leaving. It seems as though things have changed, and the town he remembers has also changed quite a bit. The economy supporting mill has been replaced by a seedy casino, and small mom and pop shops have been forced out by adult bookstores and major chains. Even without the story itself, you can see the film as a notice that small time shops and businesses are being forced out by the powering hands of Wal-Mart and Home Depot.
Chris, after viewing most of these changes first hand, settles in with his parents, and meets up with his old friend Ray (Johnny Knoxville), who just spent a few years in lockdown, and Jay (Neal McDonough), who closed the mill and opened the town’s casino. Chris soon learns of some of the sordid dealings going down at the casino, and after calling foul, and beating a few guards down, he is finally subdued and “punished.” After his nephew overdoses on crystal meth, which he received from the guys at the casino, Chris goes to town with a big piece of wood and a lot of anger. Eventually, Chris will be elected as the new sheriff, much to the distress of Jay, and now his life, and that of his families is in danger.
The film itself has one glaring problem; it’s only 75 minutes long, which makes it feel much shorter than it actually is. The flow of the film never is broken up with either action or story keeping the narrative from drifting too far off course, but the film really lacks a second act. We go right from Chris coming back to town, almost immediately to him becoming sheriff, having one “battle,” and then the film ends, seemingly with the standard happy, Hollywood ending, even though it is based on true story.
As I stated before the film is carried mostly by The Rock, and in part by Johnny Knoxville’s comedic timing. As he did with Seann William Scott previously, The Rock shows the ability to be teamed up with just about anyone, and bring the film alive with the interaction between the characters. The characters themselves get about as much developing as they could in such a short film, and occasionally standard Hollywood clichés pop-up to keep you grounded, and from getting too much into the film.
Even if it only came up short by 15 minutes from being traditionally considered “feature film length,” Walking Tall seems almost like half the film is missing, but maybe director Kevin Bray kept us from having to sift through 15 minutes of filler material before we get to the ass-kicking. Sure the film has its problems, and even though it is based on a true story, you still get the Hollywood glazed-over feel from it, like maybe too much liberty was taken in adapting the film to the screen, again, but with get performances from The Rock and Johnny Knoxville you will still leave happy, and, hopefully, walking tall.