Walking Tall

| April 3, 2004

From the previews, I had a vision of the lead character in Walking Tall, Chris Vaughn, being like a John Rambo: Ex-special forces military using his training for the good of his fellow man.
Yep. In a movie that has a very high Popcorn factor, Walking Tall has all of the fights, explosions and all of the requisite good vs. bad to make for a fun 75 minutes in the dark. There are lots of holes in the plots and about 10 times I found myself saying “Hmmmmm, they could have closed that little loophole to make it better” but I did enjoy the movie.
Chris Vaughn (The Rock, aka Dwayne Johnson–The Rundown, Scorpion King 2) returns from 8 years in the Army Special Forces to find that his small rural Washington home town has gone to hell in a hand basket. The main business (Wood Mill) has been closed and the owner has replaced it with a casino that is now the main source of town revenue. Thus, the local sheriff automatically must be on the take from the casino owners. There are lots of problems that come along with the casino, including drugs and prostitution… It’s a regular Sodom and Gomorra run by Jay Hamilton Jr. (Neal McDonough from TV’s Boomtown and Minority Report). And everyone seems powerless to stop it. But Vaughn can’t turn a blind eye to the situation and when his nephew ODs on crystal meth, he goes bizerk on Hamilton’s establishment.
The remainder of the movie is the aforementioned fight between good and evil and guess who is going to win.
It is very formula. But very good formula. I enjoyed the diversion from George W’s attempted non-reelection. The Rock’s acting is good. He is a very likable hero who uses his powers for good. His sidekick Johnny Knoxville (Jackass and Men in Black II) is a similarly likable guy who was on the skids but turned his life around. The Rock’s love interest is played by Ashley Scott (S.W.A.T.) and is just too cute for words. The question here is: why do we get to see The Rock’s perfect chest but not hers? Oh yea, Homeland Security and Janet Jackson have made it impossible, so all we get is her Vicky’s Secret bra.
Some notes:
I think it is about time to stop making movies where in a small town the Sheriff is crooked and everyone knows about it but doesn’t do anything about it. In an age of investigative journalism and the FBI, there is no way in modern times this sort of thing would happen for any time. It works in old western towns where it is a few days ride between towns but not in today’s Internet connected world.
I think it is time for The Rock to use his given name Dwayne Douglas Johnson and retire the WWF Wrestlemania moniker. He has put together a couple of good acting jobs in a row now and has three other non-wrestling oriented movies coming out in the next two years. It is time to act like a grown up and expand his audience. Like Rickey Schroder and Paul Reubens (OK, bad example), it is time for him to use his grown up name as he takes more grown up parts. I can’t imagine seeing him at age 58 (Sty Stallone’s current age) doing buddy pictures using The Rock. By then it will be more like a pebble or Mount Rushmore so he might as well do it now.
I think it is time to stop making us suspend reality so much. There were too many things going on in this movie that would have put Chris Vaughn in jail or subjected him to a lengthy trial that would have made it impossible for him to run for Sheriff. The writers (David Klass–Kiss The Girls) and director (Kevin Bray–All About the Benjamins) should have tightened all that up.
If you are willing to accept its faults and just look for the Hero movie, Walking Tall is very much worth walking into your multiplex.

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