There is something compelling about the classic fist-fight: The
forceful nature of two individuals brawling until one man cannot
stand is gripping. In 1973 the classic “Walking Tall,”
starring Joe Don Baker as real-life Tennessee sheriff Buford
Pusser, captured the essence of the two-man, bareknuckled duel. In
director Kevin Bray’s updated version of the film, strongman
The Rock fills Baker’s shoes and lays down the local law with
a 2’ x 4’.

Film Reviews
The Rock says know your role and shut your mouth. (Courtesy of MGM)
Film Reviews
Oh, I see your headlights are out. You may want to get them fixed. (Courtesy of MGM)

The Rock stars as Chris Vaughn, a retired U.S. Special Forces
soldier who returns home to find that the place where he was raised
is a mere shell of its formerly friendly nature. An area once
fueled by a flourishing lumber mill, the town is now dependent upon
and run by Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough) and his prosperous casino.
When Vaughn uncovers cheating in the casino and his nephew nearly
overdoses on crystal meth sold by the security guards, he decides
that things have gone too far. Securing the local sheriff position,
Chris makes it his mission to return the town to the simple
mountain refuge it once was.

While known for his abilities as an action-hero, “Walking
Tall” is a venture into drama for The Rock. Approached with
the role on the set of “The Scorpion King,” he and the
film’s crew always saw the movie as “not a remake, but
an adaptation.” Fighting alongside The Rock as his deputy is
“Jackass” Johnny Knoxville as old friend Ray Templeton.
Working with Knoxville, film producers took advantage of his
readiness to perform his own stunts. The Rock recounted that they
would make such requests as “Hey, jump on that chandelier and
see if it breaks.” Knoxville does take a beating in some
scenes but, like The Rock, he displays an ability to act and will
use this film as a stepping-stone to future roles.

It is, in fact, the rushed nature of the film’s storyline
that stands to be its major flaw; several characters simply fit in
conveniently. The Rock’s love interest, Deni (Ashley Scott),
has a handful of scenes, his family even fewer.

While moviegoers may be concerned that “Walking
Tall” is a run-of-the-mill action flick, the chemistry
between The Rock and Knoxville keeps the film from falling into the
traps many action movies have. In fact, The Rock has the potential
to fill the void left by muscle-bound leads like Arnold
Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. The film focuses completely
on him and, outside of Knoxville, the supporting cast merely fills
holes in.

The Rock sums up the theme to his new film well when he said
that “war and fighting might not be the answer, but standing
up for yourself will always be.” “Walking Tall”
is a story of doing just that, a film about one man’s choice
to stand up for what he believes in and kick some ass with a big
stick.

 

Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars

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