Walking Tall Review
In this remake of 1973’s disposable action-er of the same name, The Rock stars as Chris Vaughn, an ex-Army officer who returns to his hometown only to find it morally bankrupt. On initial examination he finds that the lumber mill, where his father and many others used to be employed, has been closed down and essentially replaced by a brand-new casino, run by a former childhood friend, Jay Hamilton.
Casinos and their owners are rarely portrayed as legitimate or lawful in films, and this is no exception. Barely having time to unpack his bags, Vaughn is invited to make his first excursion into the cinema. Apart from being put off by the abundance of scantily clad women, as well as other questionable contents, he soon discovers one of the employees using loaded dice to rig games. However, the security guards don’t take too kindly to this interference and Vaughn finds himself taking a brutal beating, which also results in several malicious knife wounds.
His welcome-party over, Vaughn recuperates, and looks to the town’s Sheriff for justice. Predictably, the Sheriff and police force are unwilling to help, as the casino is the town’s main source of financial income, as well as possessing a stronghold over seemingly all of the main organisations. As if all this isn’t bad enough, the casino’s security guards are also, somewhat anachronistically, dealing crystal meth to kids. Vaughn’s own nephew suffers as a result - caving in to peer pressure, he tries some of the drug but reacts badly, and has to be taken to hospital.
By now Vaughn has had enough, and so he arms himself with a trusty 2 by 4 (rather than resorting to the guns the antagonists use), and prepares to react with his own brand of destructive vigilantism. Sure enough, he successfully releases his anger on the casino and its employees, but this lands him in jail, and faced with a subsequent trial. Instead of being landed with a jail sentence, Vaughn convinces the jury that if he is found not guilty, he’ll run for Sheriff and clean up their town. The rest of the film follows now-Sheriff, Vaughn, and his wisecracking friend Ray (Johnny Knoxville of Jackass-fame) as they attempt to re-establish the existence of law and order in this morally bleak town.
Whilst I thought it might be hard to take an actor whose name contains a definite article seriously, The Rock (real name Dwayne Johnson) soon rendered this initial expectation invalid. With his natural charisma and competence at action scenes, it’s easy to see why many are already predicting him to follow in Schwarzenegger’s footsteps as the next major star of the genre. Johnny Knoxville is also likeable in his role, although has little else to do than fill the obligatory comical buddy role.
The paper-thin plot is matched only by the film’s run-time, which, excluding the opening and end credits, barely exceeds an hour. On the one hand, this serves to keep the re-hashed plot from wearing thin, and should also keep the MTV-Generation interested, but on the other it allows for little character development, and various sections of the plot seem very rushed. For instance, there is no explanation whatsoever as to how Vaughn becomes Sheriff. One scene he’s stating that he will run for election, whilst in the next he’s sporting the badge. Admittedly such details are hardly necessary, but they would certainly have fleshed out the film a little. Even the fight scenes are filmed at a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pace, and despite The Rock’s authoritative presence, leave a little to be desired.
Just like the R1 DVD release, this anamorphic presentation of Walking Tall is commendable in all respects, except for the large amounts of Edge Enhancement. Other than that, the transfer is detailed, colour levels are excellent, and there is effectively no print damage.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is consistently pleasing, with good use of all the speakers, and it also provides a lot of kick during the louder moments, be they explosions, gunshots, or even straightforward punches.
Although only a single-disc release, there are quite a few special features present that compensate for the film’s length.
The most substantial of these is Fight the Good Fight (8’22”), a featurette introduced by The Rock himself, that focuses on the filming of the film’s several fight scenes. Director Kevin Bray takes us through each of the important scenes one by one, with contributions from stunt coordinator Jeff Habberstad, actor Neal McDonough, who plays main antagonist Jay Hamilton, and more from The Rock, on a subject he presumably knows lots about.
Next there are three deleted scenes, Blackjack (0’46”), ”He Hurts People” (0’16”), and ”It’s Not Your Fault” (0’32”). All under a minute, they would hardly have bolstered the running time of the film substantially, but as they all contribute to the development of various characters, it’s hard to see why they were cut. There’s also 44 seconds of mildly amusing Outtakes, and an Alternative Ending (0’30”).
There are also two audio commentaries. If you like the leading actor and his brand of humour, then the first, an Audio Commentary by The Rock, will be one of the more entertaining commentaries you’ll have heard. He speaks about the filming of the various scenes, the other actors, and his enthusiasm and comedy help keep it interesting.
The other, an Audio Commentary by Director Kevin Bray, Director of Photography Glen MacPherson, and Editor Robert Ivision focuses on the technical aspects of the filming. As well as commenting on difficulties and methods they used, they are also occasionally quite critical of their own film, which is certainly refreshing.
There is also a Photo Gallery of 28 shots, both promotional photos and stills from the film, and the Theatrical Trailer (2’02”), which, interestingly, contains footage from one of the deleted scenes.
Seemingly identical to the Region 1 version, this DVD is a fine release of an enjoyable film, if more than a little formulaic and rushed. Whilst not an ideal showcase of The Rock’s talent, it still gives him a few opportunities to shine, doing what he does best – kicking ass. Entertaining if nothing else, this is one of the better examples of a mindless action film.