A film that could have been more than a time-waster in the hands of a more capable director, "Walking Tall" has a potentially good plot and a decent cast, but it's satisfied to be barely a feature-length actioner instead of a more interesting mixture of drama and force. The film stars The Rock, the former wrestling star who became an actor in "The Scorpion King", a mildly diverting bit of nonsense that signaled his potential as an actor, but didn't do much for his career. "The Rundown" was a sleeper hit that showed more of the Rock's capability; he's built like Arnold, but has sort of an everyguy quality. He's good at comedy, suggests some thought and conflict between kicking ass and is entertaining to watch when he's presented with good material.
The picture focuses on Chris Vaughn (The Rock), a former Special Ops officer who comes home to his small town to find that the mill he wanted to return to work at has closed, and the town has changed - for the worse (the story is based upon the real story of Buford Pusser, a sheriff whose tale has been previously adapted for film). Chris finds that a former high school classmate, Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough), has essentially taken over the town, with his operations stationed at his crooked casino. When Chris finds out that not only the casino is crooked but Jay's also selling drugs out of the place, he decides to become sheriff and take back the town.
The problem is, aside from his family and an old friend (played quite well by Johnny Knoxville of "Jackass" fame), Chris finds that the town - such as the police before he takes over - are either against him or are afraid to stand up for themselves. The result could have mixed more issues of drama about a small town being bought up and built up and the required action, but the film prefers action moments, all of which are simply okay - basically involving, but not noteworthy in their filming or choreography.
The Rock does kick ass once again in "Walking Tall", but I still think he's capable of kicking ass and acting and developing a character. Speaking of development, there's not much in the way of story or character here, as the second half of the film moves away from the story and focuses more on the action scenes, which aren't quite up to the level of what they should be. The supporting performances are fine enough - Knoxville is actually quite good as Vaughn's friend and eventually, his deputy.
"Walking Tall" could have been more of an involving action/drama about a leader helping a town rise up against corruption, drugs and more. Instead, it's merely average, a decent thriller that offers a few decent action scenes and a fine performance from the Rock. Not terrible, but could also certainly have been better.
VIDEO: "Walking Tall" is presented by MGM in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is fine enough, although it falls somewhat short of the kind of presentations that MGM has offered lately. Edge enhancement is present during quite a few of the outdoor scenes - while it wasn't terribly distracting, it was at least somewhat noticable on several occasions. Otherwise, sharpness and detail are largely very good, and the film's natural color palette appeared well-rendered and cleanly presented.
SOUND: "Walking Tall" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's audio isn't particularly complex in any way, with the surrounds only occasionally coming on to reinforce the music and provide a few sound effects. With the fighting style being rather old school, there's really no need for the rear speakers to kick in to extend the action out into the room. Dialogue, sound effects and music appeared crisp and clear, although I never felt the audio as a whole was too dynamic.
EXTRAS: The main supplements are a commentary from star the Rock and a commentary from DP Glen MacPherson, director Kevin Bray, and co-editor Robert Ivison. "Fight the Good Fight" is an 8-minute featurette that offers a look at the Rock's fighting style and the choreography of the fights seen in the film. We also get deleted scenes and an alternate ending that starts off okay, but just keeps going and going until it gets weirdly overlong. We also get bloopers, a theatrical trailer, MGM promos (such as "Species 3" and more.
Final Thoughts: "Walking Tall" remains a fairly routine action drama, despite a good performance from the Rock. MGM's DVD edition provides fine audio/video quality and a lot of average supplements. Rent it.