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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Walking Tall
Walking Tall
MGM // PG-13 // September 28, 2004
List Price: $27.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Matthew Millheiser | posted October 27, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

Walking Tall is the latest action film from charismatic wrestler-turned-action hero The Rock, and all at once it demonstrates exactly how The Rock is primed to inherit the action movie mantle form such previous stalwarts as Arnie, Sly, and Chuck, while at the same time limiting his potential by surrounding him in silly, demographically-marketed material in order to maximize his appeal to a greater cross section of filmgoers.

I refer, of course, to the insipid PG-13, popcorn-munching, huzzah-to-the-good guys attitude that permeates Walking Tall. A remake of the 1973 film from director Phil Karlson and starring Joe Don Baker as the legendary Buford Pusser, the movie features The Rock as Chris Vaughn, a Special Forces veteran who has returned to his home-town after years of military service. Looking (nay, yearning) to return to a simpler life working at the local mill, Vaughn finds the mill closed down and his hometown overrun by the crooked dealings of the local casino, operated by an old acquaintance Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough). After visiting the casino and discovering the crap tables to be cheating with loaded dice, Vaughn gets accosted, beaten, sliced up, and left on the side of the road. Soon after his recovery, his nephew Pete (Khleo Thomas) suffers from a crystal meth overdose, and Vaughn learns that the drugs are originating out of Hamilton's casino. Enraged, he grabs a 4x4 and engages in a one-man rampage, smashing slot machines, overturning gaming tables, and breaking the bones of security officers. Arrested and put on trial, Vaughn makes a courtroom plea that his town used to "walk tall", and that, if acquitted, he would clean the whole damn thing up as Sheriff. Needless to say, cut to a scene in which Vaughn is cruising around town with his shiny new Sheriff's badge, cedar 4x4 in hand and buddy/deputy Ray (Johnny Knoxville) by his side, determined to root out the corruption flowing like torrents out of Hamilton's casino.

This is the type of film that Arnold was making 18 years ago, only it was called Raw Deal and it proudly wore a hard R-rating on its tank-topped no-sleeve. But it's not the violence, the bloodletting, the cursing, and the nudity that makes a film compelling (and admittedly, Raw Deal is far from the most compelling of films), and one of the main problems with Walking Tall is that it never feels gritty enough or genuine. When things get sticky, the camera pulls back or pans away. Strippers in a casino are pretty much fully-clothed and squeaky clean. Action and violence exists to no end but for visceral thrills without the mess. There's no sense of dramatic weight to the entire affair, and I stand by the assertion that The Rock is a better actor than any of the above mentioned action superstars ever were. There's a tangible storyline and a solid script behind this movie, but given the quick-cut editing, wooden direction, and questionable acting, it feels entirely manufactured and artificial. This film needed to feel. It needed to be real, in-your-face, and grimy. It needed to stink, sweat, grunt, and bleed. Instead it lies there limply and superficially, like an unused urinal cake. I have never experienced such a film that would have benefited immensely if someone had urinated on it as Walking Tall.

The DVD

Video:

Walking Tall is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and has been anamorphically enhanced for your widescreen-viewing giddiness. This is a nice looking transfer. Image detail and sharpness levels are very impressive, delineating a picture with remarkable clarity. Colors are vibrant, rich, and stable, with sharp contrasts, deep blacks, and fine shadow detail. Compression noise is minimal, although some edge haloing and jaggies were prevalent throughout the transfer. Otherwise, this transfer looked quite good.

Audio:

The audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. For an action film, the mix seemed to be a tad subdued, but overall there isn't too much to fault in this soundtrack. Dialog levels are bright and clear, there is expansive use of the front soundstage with reasonable directionality, some occasional punch in the LFE to add some depth, and adequate and moderate if not overly engaging use of the surrounds. Overall, it's a good audio presentation, but I couldn't shake the feeling that there seemed to be something discretely lacking from the affair. It's almost as if this were a really awesome 2.0 soundtrack instead of a simply good 5.1.

Extras:

MGM has assembled a fine selection of special features for this DVD. We have not one but two audio commentaries, the first featuring The Rock himself and the latter showcasing director Kevin Bray, director of photography Glen MacpHerson, and editor Robert Ivision. Also included is a nearly nine-minute featurette entitled Fight The Good Fight. Hosted by the rock, it takes a nine-minute look at the creation of the film's action scenes. There are also four deleted scenes, some moderately amusing bloopers, an alternate ending, a photo gallery featuring production snapshots, a sneak peak at Species 3 (*shudder*), and the film's trailer.

Final Thoughts

Johnny Knoxville provides some genuine laughs, Ashley Scott provides some well-appreciated T&A (although we see The Rock topless more than any woman in this flick. That sound you just heard was my ex-girlfriend fainting), and The Rock himself makes for an engaging and enjoyable action star. Maybe we can grab the three of them and drop them off in another film, unlike Walking Tall, that has the stones not hold itself back so much. If maybe we can try to stop drawing the 13-year-olds to the multiplex and instead crafting an engaging and entertaining action movie for adults, The Rock would be sitting on a plethora of piñatas. Still, while this is a mediocre flick it's a pretty darned impressive DVD. I would advise this as a VERY strong rental, or a light recommendation for Rock fans.

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