Walking Tall, at the very least, can turn in its claim ticket as the silliest movie of the new year. The ever-popular words “Inspired By A True Story” open the film, and while I can believe the basic story is real, the action is all-out ridiculous. Seeing The Rock walking with a 2×4 on the poster should tell you that much already.
The Rock portrays Chris Vaughn, a military man who is returning home to Washington state after eight years. Things are far from the same, as he quickly finds out. The once-prosperous lumber mill where his father (Beasley) worked has been overrun by Jay Hamilton (McDonough) and turned into a casino and drug dealing gig.
After busting a craps dealer with loaded dice in Hamilton’s casino, things get ugly quick. Vaughn beats the bejesus out of Hamilton’s bouncers, and is put on trial. You guessed it, a ridiculous court sequence follows. After firing his lawyer and giving a convincing closing argument, Vaughn is found innocent and is elected the city’s sheriff shortly thereafter. The term “taking out the garbage” takes on a whole new meaning as Vaughn pulls a Steven Seagal and cleans up the town with the help of Ray (Knoxville), another friend who is appointed his deputy.
Those expecting an all-out action extravaganza may be disappointed. The film starts out slow, and fails because Vaughn’s character is never really developed very well. All we know is that he was a away for a bit, things changed, and now he’s pissed about it. There is a subplot involving Pete (Thomas), the youngest in the family, getting involved with drugs. This serves no other purpose other than to enrage Vaughn even more.
The film really flies off the rails in its last twenty minutes, with Vaughn taking on a small army with his trusty 2×4 and a shotgun. None of this is really all that interesting, which is disappointing. I think that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a decent actor and an undeniably strong presence. Here he is just stuck on a story that has you muttering “who cares!?” during most of its runtime.
Another notable flaw is the casting of Johnny Knoxville as Vaughn’s annoying buddy Ray. Who’s idea was this? I thought people knew by now that casting Knoxville in anything greatly reduces credibility.
I will give the film credit, however, for making the villains so despicable that you truly are happy when Vaughn is kicking some ass. Walking Tall does succeed in making the viewer root on its hero, and that should be noted since too many movies make it hard to like its “hero.”
It should also be noted that Walking Tall is a remake of a 1973 film of the same name, unseen by me. The man portrayed by The Rock in this film is actually named Buford Pusser, and that name is not seen until the end credits. That alone tells you how pedestrian this film’s claim is of being “inspired by a true story.”
It’s unfortunate that more care was not taken with the screenplay. Running a super scant 75 minutes, Walking Tall feels very rushed and incomplete. Fans of The Rock will enjoy some of the action (it’s all been done before and better), but the story is hardly engaging. I am still awaiting a movie that showcases The Rock’s true talents.
Length: 75 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense violence, sexual content, drug material, and language.
Theatrical Release: April 2, 2004
Directed by: Kevin Bray
Written by: David Klass & Channing Gibson & David Levien & Brian Koppelman. 1973 screenplay by Mort Briskin.
Cast: The Rock, Neal McDonough, Johnny Knoxville, John Beasley, Barbara Tarbuck, Kristen Wilson