(The Rock) + (big stick) < (The Rock) + Walken
It's a shame the action heyday of the mid eighties to mid nineties has passed, for you can't help but imagine that had The Rock been around back then Arnie might have had a serious contender to his throne, rather than just someone to pass the baton on to. Walking Tall is the relatively sedate kind of affair Arnholdt might have churned out circa Raw Deal, albeit minus much of the firepower, set as it is amongst the rural mountain logging communities of middle America. Mr. Rock plays Chris Vaughn, a former member of the US Marines who's returned home after eight years of service to find his once peaceful hometown overrun by gambling and a corrupt police force, and blow me down with a feather if he doesn't decide it's about time somebody cleaned things up a little.
Afer a run-in with some dodgy dice at the casino leaves him battered and scarred for life, Chris decides the best course of action is to get the townsfolk on his side, run for election as Sheriff and set the world straight from behind his shiny new badge. It sounds a tall order, but thanks to some decidedly pacey direction from Kevin Bray we have several tasty beatings, a torture scene, a minor courtroom drama (with Chris representing his own case) and the inauguration of a new police force all in the first forty five minutes. By my calculation that leaves a good half hour or so for The Rock to wander around town, beating various goons to within an inch of their lives with a two-by-four and a whole lotta angst. Which he does. Most satisfyingly...
Aye. There's the rub. As crass and stale as the plotting may be, Walking Tall survives on enthusiasm alone. Wether it be the blink-and-you-miss-it pacing or the wonderful sight of The Rock demolishing windows and goons' lower arms alike with a sizeable chunk of cedar, this is a movie that knows it needs to focus on it's visceral thrills, and in this respect it most certainly delivers. Where it fails to cash in, though, is in the promise of it's lead in a "dramatic" role. True, there's a little more opportunity for old Dwayne to emote here, but the script falls far short of it's promise. While this may be great news for those with no desire to see anything other than a hyper-extended wrestling match in a rural setting, for The Rock it represents yet another entry in the cycle of trying to break free from stereotype. Although things may be a little more serious now, in a sense Walking Tall represents a step back from The Rundown; a movie that thrilled to the thought of action where this one tries simply to ponder over it meaningfully.
Solid, functional, uninspiring; that's Walking Tall. "Inspired" by a true story, it certainly achieves what it set out to do, and that's to cram in as many justified beatings as is possible in the short running time. The only problem here is that we're left with the overwhelming feeling that The Rock himself has been short changed in the process, being granted neither the script nor the acting opportunity we suspect he was promised. Still, Walking Tall provides amiable enough entertainment for an hour and a half, filled as it is with thrills, spills, superfluous love interest and the sound of snapping bones. Enter without expecting intellectual stimulation, leave without feeling cheated. Now if someone would just offer this man a part in something ensemble. Robert Altman, perhaps?
Disko awards this movie 3 out of 5 log jammin's.
Ray Templeton (Johnny Knoxville)
Jay Hamilton Jr. (Neal McDonough)