“Walking Tall” Review

I really enjoyed the original “Walking Tall,” the tale — based on a true story — of a vigilante who becomes sheriff of a Southern town and cleans it up by beating every bad guy he can find with a 2×4. Furthermore, I enjoyed the “Scorpion King” and ranked “The Rundown” as my #29th favorite movie of all time, so I was looking forward to seeing how well the Rock could do in the role of Buford Pusser (changed to Chris Vaughn in the movie). I mean if a stiff like Joe Don Baker could turn this into the role of a lifetime, then I figured a much more talented actor like the Rock (stop laughing, the Rock may not be Travolta or Gibson, but he’s fantastic for an action movie star) should have been able to really shine in the role.

The movie opens up with the Rock returning to the small Southern town he grew up in and not liking what he sees. The mill where his father worked closed down and a casino opened up in its place, drugs are everywhere, and the town is run by his old, but not very likable buddy Jay.

This opening part of this movie held your interest, but was still a little slow. You get to meet the Rock — who comes across as extremely likable — a few of his friends, his family, you find out what’s happening around, etc, etc. A lot of action movies like to toss a meaningless fight scene in early to keep the audience from getting antsy, but it was not to be in this film.

But things do pick up — boy do they pick up — after the Rock catches a dealer cheating him at the casino and gets beaten up, sliced to pieces, and left for dead. Next thing you know he’s inspired to go back the casino and tear the place up, he’s in court, he’s the sheriff, he’s going after the bad guys, the movie is over, and you’re going “is that it”?

Normally, when I have a problem with the length of a movie, I end up thinking it was too long. But in this case, the movie was too short. The film only runs an 1:25 as compared to the original, which took 2:05 minutes to tell roughly the same story. Just to give you an example of how quick things went, at one point the Rock says he’s running for sheriff and less than 2 minutes later, he IS the sheriff. No campaigning, nobody voting, just a few people in the background chanting “Vaughn, Vaughn, Vaughn” and wham, bam, thank you mam, and Chris Vaughn is the “People’s Champ”.

Does that mean the movie’s bad? No, just disappointing compared to the original which weaved a longer, much more compelling, storyline that really sucked you in. The original “Walking Tall” was an epic tale of sacrifice and struggle whereas this movie flies by far too fast to merit such high praise.

That being said, the action was good, the story wasn’t bad, and the characters, particularly the Rock and his buddy Ray (played by Johnny Knoxville) were likable. So I will give the movie a thumbs up, just barely, on that basis. However, had they stuck a little closer to the plot of the original, and added let’s say 30 minutes to the movie, I think this could have been the film that made the Rock into a huge star. It’s too bad the script writers let him down…

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