Less a sequel than yet another unnecessary re-imagining of the same story but with a completely different set of characters, “Walking Tall: The Payback” purports to be a sequel to the 2004 remake of “Walking Tall” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. One supposes that Johnson was not so inclined towards doing a sequel to a movie that was itself already a remake of a movie already burdened with multiple sequels and a TV series. In his place, Kevin Sorbo, long removed from the fantasy “Hercules” TV show and recently removed from the sci-fi “Andromeda” TV show, steps into the badge and two-by-four.
Although curiously for a franchise built around a main character known for bringing law at the end of a two-by-four, said two-by-four has little more than a blink-and-you’ll-miss cameo very, very late in the film. But perhaps the filmmakers are saving most of the two-by-four action for the third installment, which will also star Sorbo and much of the same cast from “The Payback”. As is the customary decision with direct-to-video sequels nowadays, the people behind “The Payback” has elected to shoot parts two and three back-to-back, and will no doubt be releasing part three later this year, or sometime in 2008 — perhaps dependent on the video store receipts of this latest outing.
Now set in the small town of Boone, Texas, “The Payback” sees Sorbo assaying Nick Prescott, an ex-Special Forces soldier who has become a cynical and disheveled (and a tad paunchy around the mid section, I might add) cowboy. Nick is the son of the county Sheriff, who has his hands full with a small gang of criminal types set on making the locals sell their land and property post haste. Led by the tactless Harvey Morris (A.J. Buckley), our band of redneck criminals is actually only the muscle for a powerful Dallas corporate tycoon bent on furthering his road empire. After Nick’s father is murdered by Morris in a planned case of road rage, the son takes up arms to follow in his father’s footsteps, with able assistance from the father’s deputy friend and a curly haired but cute FBI agent (Yvette Napier).
For those waiting for “The Payback” to bring out the two-by-four, I’m afraid that will be a long wait. The famous piece of wood (of sorts, it’s actually more of a bat) makes its cameo appearance around the 65-minute mark, stays for less than a minute, and disappears, never to be seen again for the rest of the movie. This leaves Nick to go about his job of cleaning out Morris and crew with the traditional tools of the direct-to-video action hero, namely a curiously powerful pump-action shotgun that, when fired at a villain, will send him sailing 5 yards backwards. I wonder what kind of ammo that thing packs.
Which leads me to this observation: for a guy who used to play the part of Hercules, the strongest man alive, Sorbo has either made a concerted effort not to look very muscular in the film, or he’s really let himself go. And did I mention that Sorbo’s Nick is oftentimes sloven in appearance and a tad paunchy in the mid section? Seriously, Kevin, renew the gym membership, my man. But I digress.
The direct-to-DVD sequel dance has grown increasingly nonsensical in the last few years, with unwanted sequels to barely serviceable originals that were never even moderate hits to begin with. There is your “Road House 2”, your “Open Water 2”, and your “Hollow Man 2”, none of which did anything particularly worthwhile besides rehashing the same ground as the original, perhaps under the mistaken belief that we may have forgotten enough about the original to think these unnecessary sequels are originals. Then again, that wouldn’t explain the attempt at name association and the “2” at the end.
Further making matters worst is the need to turn what is already a miniscule plot to begin with into a two-parter, as was the case with the “Prophecy” and “Dracula 2000” sequels, and now the “Walking Tall” sequels. It is already quite incredible that the producers of “The Payback” somehow convinced themselves there are enough interest in the 2004 movie to make a sequel in the first place, but to believe that there are enough of these same people who wants to see not one, but two sequels? And then to make one big sequel and chop it up into two parts, believing that the interest is large enough to sustain both films? My God, that’s the type of hubris I cannot hope to fathom.
Which is a shame, as there’s really no reason why “The Payback” couldn’t have stood on its own two feet without the “Walking Tall” in the title. If anything, the requirements put upon the film because of its association with the franchise (in particular, the perfunctory appearance of the two-by-four) only serves to prevent “The Payback” from achieving an identity. Then again, I don’t run major Hollywood studios, or have the ability to greenlight (or kill) movies, so what do I know.
Tripp Reed (director) / Joe Halpin (screenplay)
CAST: Kevin Sorbo …. Nick Prescott
Yvette Nipar …. Kate Jensen
A.J. Buckley …. Harvey Morris
Gail Cronauer …. Emma
Bentley Mitchum …. Walter Morris
Jennifer Sipes …. Krystal