Walking Tall
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Kevin Bray
scr David Klass, Channing Gibson, David Levien, Brian Koppelman
with The Rock, Johnny Knoxville, Neal McDonough, Ashley Scott, Kristen Wilson, Khleo Thomas, John Beasley, Barbara Tarbuck, Michael Bowen, Kevin Durand, Andrew Tarbet, John Stewart
release US 2.Apr.04; UK 9.Jul.04
04/US 1h26

Let's get ready to rumble: Rock and Knoxville in the huddle.

rock knoxville mcdonough

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Admittedly, the original 1973 film wasn't serious cinema, but at least it some respect for the true story. This remake, on the other hand, is pure hokum: exploitation cinema full of gratuitous sex and vicious violence. Our hero has been renamed Chris Vaughn (Rock), and now he returns home to rural Washington state (instead of Tennessee) simply to find peace after years in an elite military unit. But his hometown is now a hotbed of corruption; his father (Beasley) lost his job when the mill closed so the albino owner Jay Hamilton (McDonough), Chris' former schoolmate, could open a casino/strip club/drug den. Yes, Jay is now a mob boss in charge of a criminal empire that has the local sheriff on its payroll. So Chris teams up with his jittery chucklehead pal (Knoxville) to clean up the streets, with a plank of wood as his weapon of choice.

It's not a bad story at all, but the filmmakers strip it of any meaning or purpose. The film is merely a series of set-piece montages: reunion football match, pole dancing, casino brawl, torture (human), courtroom, torture (vehicular), soft-focus sex, mega gunplay, showdown in abandoned mill. That's the entire movie ... and half of these scenes are unnecessary! The Rock struts through it all manfully, removing his shirt to flex his massive muscles before getting down to business. He and the cast are extremely watchable, but each character is wafer thin. The filmmakers are so finely focussed on scenes of one man cleaning up small town corruption that they never bother to dig under the surface. And that surface is pretty vile, with nasty grisliness that makes it impossible for us to cheer for the good guys. Blame Bray, whose colourful and kinetic style tries to mask his incoherent direction and strongly misogynistic streak. Besides Chris' ex-hooker girlfriend (Scott), the cast list includes one Exotic Beauty, a Dollar Bill Girl, a Girl on Platform, two Casino Trashy Women and Wet T-Shirt Girls, and three Lap Dancers. This is obviously where his interest lies, rather than telling a meaningful story.

cert 15 themes, violence, innuendo, language 21.Apr.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... walking tall Laurie T, Minneapolis: "Okay, I was in the mood for a light movie - one that would not make me think too much, and a bit of eye candy. This movie is predictable - completely - and not even that good. However, I will say I was entertained for a couple hours, and we had a couple laughs. The Rock plays a good hero to the bad guys who took over his town." (12.Apr.04)
2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall