he biggest problem with the 2004 Hollywood remake
of "Walking Tall" (and believe you me, there are problems
aplenty with this little ditty) is this: The Rock, as a persona, is simply
too big for the movie at hand. For God's sake, the guy goes by a moniker
instead of his actual name. When you can do that and no one even thinks
about snickering, that means you are too big for a movie about a
returning soldier who cleans up a corrupt town by beating up some guys
with a 2-by-4 and then running for Sheriff.
The Rock plays Chris Vaughn, an Army vet who returns
home to settle down, but finds that all the things he was looking forward
to have gone down the drain. Drug dealers and junkies conduct business on
the streets in broad daylight, the Sheriff is so crooked it's not even
funny, and Chris' childhood friend, Jay (Neal McDonough), has become a
sleazy casino owner who sells drugs out of his casino. Not only is Jay's
casino the town's only source of income now that the lumber mill has
closed down, but Chris soon learns that his High School sweetheart (Ashley
Scott) is now a dancer at Jay's sleazy casino.
If that wasn't bad enough, the first night he's at
the casino, Chris gets into a fight and is nearly murdered by Jay's
henchmen. What's a war hero to do? Why, bust up the casino with a 2-by-4,
of course. Originally Chris had driven to the casino with a shotgun, but
decided on the piece of lumber instead because I guess busting heads and
cracking bones with a 2-by-4 is better than, you know, shooting people and
stuff. But as the trailer, which gives away every single plot point in
the movie, informs us, Chris doesn't go to jail; instead, he runs for
Sheriff, wins, and goes on a crusade in the name of justice armed with
grit, guts, the comedy banter of slacker Johnny Knoxville ("Men
in Black 2"), and a re-decorated 2-by-4.
It's no surprise that if you saw the trailer to
"Walking Tall" you've seen all 74 minutes of the movie. Yes, you
heard me right. "Walking Tall" runs exactly 74 minutes. Which is
the second major problem with the movie; there is just no time to allow
anything to happen naturally. Instead, things just, well, sort of happen.
One second Chris is in court for busting up Jay's casino, and the very
next second he's slapping a "Sheriff" sticker on his truck
because, in-between the second that he was acquitted and the next, he
somehow ran for Sheriff and won.
Problems abound in "Walking Tall", and not
a single one of them has to do with its lead. The Rock is a charismatic
figure, entirely affable, and he's going to be a big star in a few years.
proved that, given the right material, this guy is more than just a
wrestler-turned-actor. The easy charm and physicality are present once
again in "Walking Tall", but the right material isn't. The movie
is simply too trimmed, seemingly designed for the A.D.D. crowd rather than
an audience that can string two scenes together without a music soundtrack
blasting in its ear.
Although I shouldn't complain too much about
"Walking Tall's" music, because the soundtrack is actually quite
good. So too is the slick direction by Kevin Bray, whose decision to film
half of the movie with music video style efficiency probably contributed
to the film's shockingly low running time. By the time Chris becomes
Sheriff, there's only about 20 minutes of screentime left. Needless to
say, watching Jay's thugs shoot up a Sheriff station and then Chris and
Jay duking it out doesn't really qualify as an "exciting
"Walking Tall" is simply too short-handed
for its own good. Maybe there's another cut out there that fleshes out the
story a little bit more, because 74 minutes just doesn't seem like a
natural running time for a big Hollywood movie. In this case, I would have
liked to see how exactly Chris got elected Sheriff and what problems he
faced when the reality of closing down the town's only goldmine -- the
casino -- trickled down to the average citizen. Instead, "Walking
Tall" was shortened to such an extreme length that it feels like a
Cliff's Note version of a movie, and not the movie itself.
Despite all that, it's hard to completely dislike the
film, if just for a good performance from its leading man. I said it with
"The Rundown" and I'll say it even after "Walking
Tall" -- the Rock is destined for superstar status. His one obstacle
is something entirely in his control: picking the right projects. Arnold
Schwarzenegger knew how to pick projects that his larger-than-life persona
could fit in and not dwarf. In "Walking Tall", the Rock simply
dwarfs the constraints of the film, just as Schwarzenegger would have.