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Walking Tall
2004 - PG-13 - 85 Mins.
Director: Kevin Bray
Producer: Paul Schiff, Lucas Foster, David Hoberman
Written By: Brian Koppelman, David Levien, David Klass, Channing Gibson
Starring: The Rock, Johnny Knoxville, Kristen Wilson, Neal McDonough, Ashley Scott
Review by: Joe Rickey
   

You're going to need a few repairs, sir.
The Rock was long the most popular grappler in the WWE, the Vince McMahon enterprise that has been going strong for what seems like decades now. He had something that most of the other wrestlers in the league didn’t have: charisma, and lots of it. Seeing the opportunity, McMahon took his most prized performer and persuaded him to enter into the world of film as a leading man in action films that also were hoped to showcase his considerable charm in the process. His first film was ‘The Scorpion King,’ a successful action film but nothing that really showcased The Rock and even the film’s success couldn’t be attributed to him, as it was a spin-off in the highly lucrative ‘Mummy’ series of films. No, it was now time to test his muscle at opening a film. ‘The Rundown’ just so happened to be that film. It garnered mostly positive reviews and opened well enough with over eighteen million opening weekend. Everything seemed to be going well but then, for some reason, the film wasn’t able to hold onto an audience in the face of fierce competition from the likes of ‘Underworld’ and ‘School of Rock.’ It managed to finish with only forty-seven million, a far cry from its reported eighty million dollar budget. This development no doubt had MGM worried because they are the distributors behind ‘Walking Tall.’ They promptly moved the film around their schedule multiple times before deciding on an early April opening. Of course, the competition is once again fierce with the effects-heavy ‘Hellboy’ opening the same weekend with ‘Kill Bill Vol. 2’ and ‘The Punisher’ on the horizon. Will the same fate befall ‘Walking Tall’ or will it be able to become a hit despite of said competition? Only time will tell, but if I have anything to say about it, the film deserves to become a success because it is a consistently entertaining action film with a good performance once again turned in by The Rock.

Chris Vaughn is a decorated war hero returning home after years abroad. He remembers his hometown as a place of innocence with the local mill being the focal point of the town’s economy. His father was even an employee at the mill. Much has changed in the town, though. The mill has closed and his father has since opened a furniture operation as a way of generating income. The town as a whole has become dependent on the Lucky Cherry Casino, a nefarious operation run by a power-hungry man who has even began another business on the side, selling drugs to local youth. Chris soon finds out that he has even bribed the sheriff into looking the other way on such things. Chris, a man with an image of the town as it once was in his mind, decides to take the law into his own hands. First off, he becomes sheriff and uses the newfound power to take on the man who has single-handedly ruined everything he remembered about the place of his childhood.

‘Walking Tall’ works mostly because of The Rock. The man just knows how to come across as a likable individual while showing more emotion than Arnold Schwarzenegger ever showed in his entire career as an action hero. The Rock is adept at handling both the serious side of the story along with the comedic and romantic sides of the story. It is very easy to buy a man of The Rock’s size beating down multiple people simultaneously. It also helps that the many action sequences are filmed in an entertainingly fast-paced style by director Kevin Bray; illustrating more talent in this film than he did in ‘All About the Benjamins,’ his prior film as director. The film also gets solid supporting performances by the likes of Johnny Knoxville as a humorous deputy, Ashley Scott as Vaughn’s old girlfriend turned stripper at the casino, and Neal McDonough acting evil as the menace of the film without ever going over the top into lunacy and self-parody.

Overall, ‘Walking Tall’ is one entertaining action film. Sure, it really doesn’t have much to say about any one topic, but it accomplishes what it set out to do: provide a rollicking action picture while once again showcasing the surprisingly talented actor that has become The Rock.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

 
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