Returning from service with US Special Ops forces, Chris Vaughan (The Rock) arrives back at his rural hometown in Washington state hoping to reunite with family and friends, and to find some good honest work in the town's mill. What he discovers is that one of his former school mates, Jay (Neal McDonough), has inherited a fortune, closed down the mill, opened a dodgy casino and might well be the man behind a drug racket that is ruining the soul of the community. He certainly has the local police in his pocket. Vaughan decides that someone needs to put things right, and against the odds he takes on the whole corrupt operation.
Review by Brad Green:
If I wanted to watch pro-wrestling star, The Rock, smash up some baddies I'd rather tune into one of his bouts. At least those things are better scripted. Sometimes even the villains win, and all that pre-bout slagging where they promise to rip each other's arms off and use the messy ends as lethal weapons is far more sophisticated than any of the dialogue in this moronic tribute to violence.
For the first 10 minutes it pretends to be a character drama, then there's the first punch up, followed by some nasty knife action and a quick escalation into a continuous barrage of brutality. It's not especially graphic, but it's more gratuitous than any film I've spied in a long time. There's none of the self-aware lunacy of teen horror or the stylised choreography of a martial arts flick, just cartoon biffo rendered as live action without any semblance of wit or imagination. Ostensibly, it's a remake of a 1973 film that was based on the true story of a sheriff who cleaned up a crime-riddled town with nothing more than a big stick and a whole lot of attitude. Believe me, a couple of degrees of separation has been enough to detach this story entirely from reality.
The Rock displays a quiet, swaggering confidence that suggests if given half the chance he could make an authentic action star. You know, someone who fills a character with charisma as well as brawn and bravado. Unfortunately, all our man is expected do here is flex his impressive pecs and deliver a thick plank of wood into the thicker heads of the goons working for his old school chum turned drug-dealing nemesis.
In that role Neal McDonough has clearly been cast for his ability to sneer and shift his eyes sideways, just as Ashley Scott, The Rock's love interest, has been cast for her ability to look scrumptious and say very little. Admittedly, she does play a key role in the only hint we have that our hero possesses some smarts to complement his iron physique and unshakable rectitude. Why does he put her in harms way, making love to her in exactly the place they're most likely to be attacked? Partly I suspect because he realises she'll look mighty cute dodging bullets in her underwear (he's right), but mostly because he has up his sleeve the same trick that any pro wrestler who showboats, hams up it for the crowd and still comes out victorious relies on. He knows that the scriptwriters are on his side. Wish they'd been on mine. By that stage I wasn't rooting for the good guy or the bad guy, only an earlier ending.
Email this article
WALKING TALL (M)
CAST: The Rock, Neal McDonough, Johnny Knoxville, John Beasley, Barbara Tarbuck, Kristen Wilson
PRODUCER: Ashok Amritraj, Jim Burke, Lucas Foster, David Hoberman, Paul Schiff
DIRECTOR: Kevin Bray
SCRIPT: David Klass, Channing Gibson, David Levien, Brian Koppelman (earlier screenplay Mort Briskin)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Glen MacPherson
EDITOR: George Bowers
MUSIC: Graeme Revell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Brent Thomas
RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 12, 2004
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: January 7, 2005
VIDEO RELEASE: MGM