If you're a fan of both The Rock, the wrestler, and The Rock the actor, you're probably caught between a rock and a hard place, pardon the pun. The 3rd-generation professional wrestler hasn't been on the wrestling circuit much, of late, because he's too busy making movies. He is currently filming Be Cool, the sequel to Get Shorty, and he also has Instant Karma and the adaptation of the video game Spy Hunter coming up. So you can't see him give a Rock Bottom (except for in The Rundown) but you can see him act in some pretty good movies (except for The Scorpion King). Is it a fair trade-off? Maybe, maybe not. But Walking Tall, The Rock's latest flick shows us that we'll probably be seeing less of him in the squared circle, because this is a pretty good movie.
I'd like to clear something up before I continue. Some of the reviews I've been seeing for this have been saying that the WWE produced this. Not necessarily true. It is true that WWE founder Vince McMahon is the executive producer of the movie, under his newly formed WWE Films. But he is just the executive producer. I could be wrong about this, but I think he gets an executive producer credit, like he does on all of The Rock's films, because The Rock is billed as The Rock, not Dwayne Johnson. McMahon owns the moniker "The Rock" and they market the movies around that name, hence, Vince McMahon - executive producer. So for all that have been knocking the film because it was made by the WWE, it really wasn't. I think it's more of McMahon keeping an eye on his investment in The Rock, than McMahon trying to make feature films. OK, back to the review.
The movie starts out nicely, with Chris Vaughn (The Rock) coming back to his hometown, after being a Special Forces sargeant for 8 years. But the town he comes back to isn't nearly the same town that he left 8 years ago. So when he starts seeing some things that he doesn't like, he takes matters into his own hands, becoming the new sherrif, to reclaim the town he once loved. But standing in his way is his old friend Jay Hamilton (McDonough), who is the new kingpin of the town. He owns a successful casino, running drugs through the security guards. The Rock don't like that, so he must layeth the smacketh down. Sorry, couldn't resist.
The movie is only 75 minutes long, but I kind of liked that. So many movies lately have been so long and drawn out, it's nice to see a movie like this. The movie is very snappy, swiftly paced, and, a word that Hollywood seems to have forgotten, succinct. The only thing that I would've liked to see more of was Vaughn's campaign for sherrif. They just go right to him being sherrif without showing anything of how he got there. There are a lot of angles that they could've played with this (blackmail, rigging the election, etc.), but they just gave him a badge and that was that. Some more character development would've been nice as well. The movie could've been longer without being excessive, but still, it's better than a 2 1/2 hour movie that you just can't wait to get out of.
The Rock is great as Vaughn, the vigilante sherrif who will do anything for justice, and what is right. He has a commanding screen presence and he shows some great range here, which is somewhat surprising for a guy who paid his rent by hitting people with chairs. The Rock is the action icon for the new millenium, folks. And this movie just shows how much he deserves this status. Also showing some surprisingly good range is Johnny Knoxville. He gives a pretty good performance as Vaughn's buddy/deputy Ray, which is surprising from a guy who paid his rent by doing...well, anything really. Neil McDonough is great here as well, as the shady casino owner Jay Hamilton. I loved him in his breakthrough role in Minority Report and I knew that more good things were going to come from this guy, and the proof is in Walking Tall. The only real sub-par performance comes from Ashley Scott, who blandly portrays Vaughn's "love interest" Deni. She's not on screen too much, but when she is, she's pretty boring.
The script, written by David Klass, Channing Gibson and the scribe duo of Brian Koppleman and David Levien, has a neat little story, with some great dialogue and humor, mainly from goofball Knoxville. The ending might be predictable, but it fit the story very nicely. I don't really understand why it took 4 writers to put together a 75-minute movie, but oh well. There is a nice little sub-plot here too, about Vaughn and his father, played by John Beasley. The script could've used a little more of everything, but it was still nicely done.
Director Kevin Bray does a nice job here. The action is handled nicely, although I think it's way too choppy. The scenes are effective, but they would've been more effective if they weren't cut up as much. But Bray handles his talent very well and uses some great angles behind the camera, using some nice low-angle shots to accentuate The Rock's rockness.
People have said that the movie advocates violence as a means of solving problems. It's a movie, folks. Take your thumbs out of your mouth and enjoy it for what it is. This is inspired by a true story, of Buford T. Pusser who layed down the law, 2X4 in hand. So this movie isn't advocating violence, it's just telling the story of a man who did. It's a thin line, maybe, but still. It's just a movie, folks. This kind of an argument is more of a thesis paper than a review, so I'll stop now. But I wouldn't be worried about any sherrif's carrying around 2X4's anytime soon.
Walking Tall is a movie about justice...violent justice, but still justice nonetheless. It's a nice, quick little jaunt of a movie that shows us the greatness of The Great One, and shows us that a movie can be short and entertaining at the same time.