Walking Tall (2004)


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Walking Tall (2004) Review

Ironically, Walking Tall runs short. Credits included, the testosterone opera two-fists its way through 77 sweat-soaked minutes, and it's just enough. You won't be hungry for seconds by the time the last baddie hits the floor, but you won't be checking your watch repeatedly, either.

Let's not sugarcoat it. Tall remains a one-note genre picture specifically tailored to its shining star - The Rock. For what it is, though, Tall is quite good. It has fun with its limitations. It boasts strong fight choreography and interesting direction by Kevin Bray, who keeps the spotlight on its charismatic and camera-friendly leading man.

Inspired by a 1973 "hixploitation" flick of the same name (which I've yet to see), this new Tall moves the action from Tennessee to Washington state. Chris Vaughn (The Rock) is a soldier gone from his home for eight years who returns to his childhood town to rekindle relationships and rest. He discovers that a former acquaintance named Jay (Neal McDonough) blessed with some family money and influence has shut down the town's mill and set up a profitable casino. Debauchery follows.

The impact of legal gambling both helps and hurts the town. It gives struggling community members a place to work but also provides cover for a lucrative drug ring that's targeting children. When Vaughn's nephew overdoses on crystal meth provided by the casino staff, the burly enforcer takes it upon himself to clean up the streets and rid the town of the criminal element.

In his professional wrestling incarnation, The Rock usually orders opponents to "know their roles," but it's his Tall co-stars that take heed. McDonough oozes a natural arrogance onscreen as Vaughn's slimy adversary, and Johnny Knoxville is consistently funny in his limited sidekick role. I'll take Captain "Jackass" over Seann William Scott any day of the week.

Tall initially aspires to be something deeper. Vaughn has dimensions, fears, hopes, and anxieties. His self-serving vendetta elevates him to a higher plane above the law, which leads to a comically campy court scene that has the soldier defending his actions and baring his barrel chest for the members of a jury. It's hard to explain here, but it made perfect sense in the film.

There's only so much room in the abbreviated Tall, though, and it chooses to be an action vehicle more than a human drama. It's worth noting that The Rock, amazingly, would have been fine in either type of film. On a side note, in this post-Matrix era of elaborate and tiresome martial arts sequences, it's nice to see a good old-fashioned fistfight again.

The DVD includes two audio commentary tracks, a stunt featurette, deleted scenes, a gag reel, and an alternate ending to the film.

Gambling is bad, mmm-kay?