April 8, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 100  

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Lots of action in Rock flick

Walking Tall
Starring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Neal McDonough, Johnny Knoxville, Ashley Scott
Directed by: Kevin Bray

By Arthur Thuot
Gazette Staff

Gazette file photo
“OH, PLEASE SAVE ME, YOU BIG STRONG ROCK MAN!” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Ashley Scott star in Walking Tall.

If there’s one thing you can learn from Walking Tall, it’s the following: while sticks and stones may break your bones, if you mess with The Rock you’re going to get your shit ruined.

Johnson, better known as The Rock, stars as Chris Vaughn in this remake of the 1973 “classic” of the same name.

Chris returns from military service as a fully trained Special Forces sergeant, ready to resume his life from eight years ago. But alas, since his departure much has changed. Sinister Jay Hamilton Jr. (McDonough) has closed the small town’s beloved mill — converting it to (what else?) a crystal meth lab — and has built a corrupt casino to serve as a front for drug dealing.

After Chris’ little brother has a brush with death from a drug overdose, he decides to take matters into his own hands. Despite no experience, Chris wins over the affection of the townspeople, and is successful at getting elected as sheriff, ousting the previously crooked police organization.

He embarks on a mission to end Hamilton’s run of the town using his own action-packed brand of vigilante justice, adhering to the old adage of walking softly and carrying a big stick — although any soft walking was due to the cushioning effect of his enemies’ gore as he stepped over their mangled bodies.

Most of the violence in the film is refreshingly realistic — no James Bond-esque, over-the-top bazookas shooting down helicopters — just honest, straightforward, hand-to-hand combat with a smattering of gunfire thrown in for good measure.

The film clocks in at a short 75 minutes, and is unsurprisingly lacking in a few minor areas like character and plot development. As well, a few elements of the truth are stretched. It’s safe to assume that if a 6’5”, 255 pound athlete swings a four-foot slab of cedar — smashing you square in the hand — you don’t recoil in pain. Your hand explodes; it’s as simple as that.

For what it is, Walking Tall isn’t half bad. It’s fair to assume, however, that the movie didn’t attempt to garner praise as a cinematic masterwork.

The Rock did a good enough job playing a simple role. Sure, he’s no thespian, but he wasn’t playing Hamlet either. Which is quite a shame: “To beat the crap out of this guy or not, that is the question… ”

The supporting cast also does a great job. Knoxville departs slightly from his Jackass antics to add comedic levity as Chris’s reformed convicted felon sidekick, Ray Templeton.

Deni (Scott) does justice to the important role of obligatory action flick eye-candy, playing Chris’s friendly neighbourhood stripper-turned-love interest. And, possibly in the most subtle product endorsement in motion picture history, Denny’s restaurants become sponsor of Deni’s character. After she is seduced by a man of such an imposing physical stature as The Rock, it’s clear that everyone should enjoy a grand slam.



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