Walking Tall (2004)  

Alan:

Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:




Warning, minor plot points revealed!

I had no great interest in seeing this movie but I snuck in after Hellboy so it was free.  I like The Rock and I like action movies with lots of fighting so this seemed like it would be a good way to kill some time.  I never saw any of the original Walking Tall films with Joe Don Baker so I have no reference for comparison between those and this remake.  I can however compare it to the 1989 Patrick Swayze slugfest Road House since it's almost exactly the same movie.  

I will probably regret admitting this here, but I loved Road House.  So when I say Walking Tall is just like Road House it's meant as a compliment, not the slam or insult you probably assumed.  If anything this movie is actually more like Road House-Lite.  It's PG-13 instead of R, doesn't pack quite the punch or level of violence, and the girls never get naked.  Other than that the story is the same.

A U.S. Army Special Forces vet, Chris Vaughn, returns to his little hometown to work in the lumber mill like his father.  Upon his arrival he learns that the town has changed.  The mill is closed, a crooked casino has opened, and the city is basically just a slum of drugs, violence and poverty.  His old girlfriend is a stripper at the casino and a childhood friend is now the town bad guy who owns and operates the casino with the local police and a gang of tough guys as his enforcers and drug dealers.  Chris immediately tries to set things straight and eventually becomes the town sheriff.  This sheriff, however, can't be bought and carries a big stick.

The fight scenes are decent considering The Rock is still one of the fixtures of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) but strangely they are not as good as I expected.  I hate to say it, but Patrick Swayze's character in Road House would have beat the crap out of The Rock's Chris Vaughn character.  

At 85 minutes it's also one of the shortest movies I've seen in recent memory.  Perhaps they could have extended some of the fight scenes by 20 minutes or so.  As it is the movie plays kind of like an episode of Kung Fu or The Six Million Dollar Man or something.

The actors all do fine.  The Rock is a good action star and I hope to see him in many movies to come.  He'll make a good super hero or super hero villain some day.  Johnny Knoxville, TV's Jackass, is the loser best friend of Chris Vaughn who helps him adapt to the town and then clean it up.  Knoxville is kind of funny.  I don't really like him as a person but his character is OK.  The rest of the characters are basically just no-name actors.  Neal McDonough is good as the town bad guy and Michael Bowen as the corrupt sheriff.  The only other mentionable person in the film is Chris's girlfriend played by Ashley Scott.  Scott is beautiful and I enjoyed her work on the short-lived TV series Birds of Prey and Dark Angel.

I liked Walking Tall.  It's worth seeing once but not really worth the price of admission at the theater.  I would even hesitate to rent it on DVD.  This is one that would be best to wait and see on HBO or cable some night.  It's also a total guy movie.  Make that a drunk guy movie.  So grab some beers, order a pizza and turn on WGN in a couple years and enjoy The Rock, in Walking Tall.