WALKING TALLTHE ROCK'S COOKIN LEFTOVERS | March 31, 2004
Opens April 2nd
First and foremost I must admit I haven't had time to see the original Walking Tall, nor do I know the true story of Sherriff Buford Pusser, on which both films are based. However I’m a fan of Johnny Knoxville, and have been pretty happy with The Rock’s action resume so far.
In this version of Walking Tall, Duane Johnson is Chris Vaughn (like “The Rock”, a more marketable name than Buford Pusser) a soldier returning home from active duty, only to find his beloved small town has become the biggest little pit of sleaze this side of Reno. Bought out by Vaughn’s boyhood rival, Jay Hamilton, Jr. (Neal McDonough, aka: the towheaded dude from Ravenous and Minority Report), the town has closed it’s cedar mill to make room for adult video stores, Home Depot’s, drug dealers, and its new source of revenue: a shady casino complete with loaded dice and skanky strippers making an altogether different type of wood.
Naturally Vaughn doesn’t take kindly to his beloved town’s new image. Nor does he like the fact that his childhood crush, Deni (Ashley Scott, looking like Britney Spears, only with a good body) is moonlighting as a stripper. After being beaten within an inch of his life for alerting the natives to the casino’s crooked craps table, Vaughn figures its time for his town to get an extreme makeover. To make a long story short, following a marathon property destruction session, his no tolerance policy catches the eye of the townsfolk and he’s elected the new sheriff of bupkusville. Deputizing his best friend and manly hugs buddy, Ray Templeton (Johnny Knoxville), he sets out to clean up the trash once and for all.
While the original Walking Tall was able to handle this story in its ample 125 minute runtime, this Tall is surprsingly short. Clocking in at a measly 80 minutes, most characters’ personalities and relationships are established in the opening football game. The bad guys cheat, and the good guys don’t. Knoxville’s whole back-story is covered in an odd bit of dialogue that goes something like, “Hi! Nice to see you! I went to Seattle to become a rockstar but became a druggie instead. I’m good now, though. How you been?” Believe it or not, the only reason this monologue works is because of Johnny Knoxville’s competent acting. (Yes. Johnny Knoxville. Good acting.) Whether because the script has four writers, or the editor got a little too chop-happy, some of the transitions within the story are amazingly abrupt. For example, The Rock is in the middle of his property destruction trial, when he shows the jury his “fleshy scar” and tells them that he’ll clean up their town if they let him. In the very next scene he’s been elected sheriff. While the pending election had been mentioned in the film, no actual election was shown taking place. While not a necessary sequence by any means, a short election montage may have helped to smooth the transition.
But regardless, the reason to see this film would be the action. Once again The Rock brings his trademark anti-gun, pro-physical action to the screen. Realizing he’s a role model for quite a few American males, he makes sure his character is a pillar of morality. Never swearing, never cheating, just delivering a good ol’ fashioned ass whupping to those that deserve it. Sure, there are shootouts, but The Rock makes sure to only use guns as a last resort. Again, because the MPAA’s sliding scale seems to count violence and swearing with the same severity, the omission of such language from the main character helps to ensure the most electrifying man in wrestling has the most electrifying action sequences one can find within a PG-13 film.
All in all, Walking Tall is not a great film, nor is it one that you will remember a few weeks down the line. But it is a fun time. While the casual Rock fan may not want to spend $9.00 to see it in the theater, it would definitely make for a good rental on DVD. Fans of the Rock: enjoy.