Walking Tall

on April 02, 2004 by Paul Clinton
"Walking Tall's" setup should be familiar not only to audiences who remember Phil Karlson's 1973 version of the film (as well as the two sequels, TV movie and series)--but also to "Rambo" fans. Military vet Chris Vaughn (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) returns to his Washington State mill town only to find that changes have taken hold. The once-humming cedar mill now sits silent behind a locked chain-link fence. A new, slick-talking sheriff (Michael Bowen) introduces himself. And casino boss Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough, in a sneering frat-boy-gone-criminal turn) has taken over the town.

The film promises vigilante payback, then delivers it without the kind of underlying moral outrage needed to put it across. In a bid to clean up the town, Vaughn runs for and is elected sheriff; cedar club in hand, he plants drugs on one of Hamilton's goons and trashes a truck, with the help of deputy Ray (Johnny Knoxville). The line between comeuppance and vengeance is crossed, eliciting moral questions more than cheers for our hero. Johnson, to his credit, delivers a credible performance as a man at a crossroads in his life. As a showman-wrestler, Johnson brings charisma to the role, being careful not to overplay his scenes. Even better is Knoxville, a talented and likable comedian with a mile-long mischievous streak. Knoxville's parting wisecracks leading into the 10 minutes of closing credits are the best lines in the movie. Starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Johnny Knoxville and Neal McDonough. Directed by Kevin Bray. Written by David Klass, Channing Gibson, David Levien and Brian Koppelman. Produced by Jim Burke, Lucas Foster, Paul Schiff, Ashok Amritraj and David Hoberman. An MGM release. Action. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense violence, sexual content, drug material and language. Running time: 86 min

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