Rated | Alphabetical
Kevin Bray, USA, 2004
Posted: April 15, 2004
The Rock sure knows how to market himself, doesn't he? I mean, come on, the
name alone says it all. You name yourself "The Rock," you better have the stones
to back it up. Friends, countrymen, bill collectors, I'm here to tell you that
in Walking Tall, our man The Rock backs it up. He continues his evolution
as a marquee action star, moving from that hoary netherworld between the sheer
Ahhnuld and the more cerebral brutality of my personal hero Steven Seagal,
into a realm uniquely his own. Furthermore, the film allows him to stretch his
acting legs a bit, and move from simply beating people with his hands into the
tricky area of bludgeoning people with lumber. Trust me, that's not as easy as
Now, a remake has to offer something a little different from the original.
After all, what's the point in making the exact film with different actors? To
that end, this version of Walking Tall diverges from the original '70s
flick (which was based on a true story) in many respects, chief among them the
choice of leading man. Nothing against the great Joe Don Baker, who played the
role of Buford Pusser in the original. But come on, this is The
Rock we're talking here. My man Joe Don strikes an intimidating pose, to be
sure, but few men alive strike fear into the heart -- few men can cause the
involuntary voiding of bladders with a simple eyebrow twitch and the flex of a
bicep -- like The Rock. All this, and it turns out he can act, too.
Yes, Virginia, The Rock gives a fine performance as Chris Vaughn, a soldier
returning to his quiet town only to discover that the cornerstones of his
community have been shut down and replaced with adult book stores, casinos and
crooked cops. One thing leads to another, as they are wont to do, and before you
know it, people end up getting hurt. Make no mistake about it; the plot here
serves to set the stage for the "good man pushed too far" theme. Is The Rock
capable of portraying that role? Absolutely. It's easy to criticize him because
of his background, but if one gives an honest evaluation of his performance, The
Rock holds up his end of the deal. Also, lest I forget, Johnny Knoxville
actually turns in a decent performance as The Rock's buddy and eventual deputy.
He mixes a blend of goofiness and ineptness that reminds me a little of my
Vincenzo, except with less of the cluelessness and drooling-baboon machismo.
Knoxville's performance is a refreshing change from all the movie sidekicks
we've become used to.
So what is the essence of this film? What part of it sets the tone? Is it The
Rock Himself? Is it the lumber he takes to the bad guys? Is it the reclaiming of
his town? These are all salient features, but they all fall short of the film's
defining moment, one which elevates ol' Rock into the next phase of his
increasingly rounded acting career. After our boy becomes irate with the crooked
games in the casino, he initiates some regal ass-beating until the casino thugs
get the drop on him and cut him up pretty good. After he learns that drugs are
being peddled from the casino (and to children, no less), he returns, this time
discarding his Remington shotgun in favor of a large piece of lumber, and
proceeds to trash the casino and throttle the men who worked him over.
Now, fast-forward to his day in court to answer the charges brought about by
his casino mayhem. In the middle of a losing trial, The Rock fires his lawyer
and decides to represent himself. With no legal background, he is able to turn
the tide of the trial in approximately seven minutes. He not only convinces the
jury of his innocence, he also persuades them to allow him to run for sheriff.
WOW! Now, I'm sure there's some legal precedent for this, but I'm unaware of it
right now. You see, it's The Rock's brilliant legal mind that sets the stage for
the action to take place. Who knew! So remember, the next time you're in traffic
court, stand up and make an impassioned plea to the judge and then see if he'll
let you run for sheriff. You can cite Walking Tall as the precedent for
such a movement.
Remember, Walking Tall ain't Macbeth, nor is it supposed to be.
Like I keep saying, it is what it is, and should therefore be judged on what it
tries to accomplish. I like seeing bad guys hit with lumber. I like seeing
Johnny Knoxville made a Deputy Sheriff. I also enjoy seeing casinos being
smashed ever since I blew my last Shaking Through paycheck on a slot
machine in a seedy Indian gaming parlor. Hey, you had me at the 2x4, but The
Rock in the courtroom puts this film over the top. In fact, I hope it opens the
door for him to appear in a courtroom drama of some type. I think he would have
been a far better choice than Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men. Come on now:
The Rock grilling Jack Nicholson, raising a single eyebrow as he yells "I want
the truth!" -- could it get any better than that in a courtroom? If you answer
that question with a "Yes," you're either a liar or sadly deluded. If you want
instant justice, ass whooping, and some pretty heady legal strategy, check out
Walking Tall. It works.
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