A Film Review By Jason L. King
Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense violence, sexual content, drug material and language
Starring:The Rock, Johnny Knoxville
Directed By:Kevin Bray
There is an old saying that goes; “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” My father used to tell me that time and time again as a boy along with other random tidbits of knowledge such as: “Stand Up for what you believe in.” Looking back on those simple phrases I somehow have found a way to apply them to the thing I love, movies. I never really thought I could say that. But after seeing Walking Tall, I think I finally found a way to do it.
Walking Tall is the Rock’s newest chance to achieve action superstardom. He plays Chris Vaughn, a local war hero who returns home to his pleasant small town home to learn that it is filled with corrupt cops, drug dealers and an old friend who sold out the family business for a life of gambling and prostitution. When the troubles of the town hit close to home, Vaughn takes the law into his own hands, armed only with a chunk of lumber and a mission for disaster. His acts, regardless of how stupid they may seem end up finding him elected sheriff of the town much to the dismay of his opponents.
This story is based off of the real life story of Sheriff Buford Pusser, a man who stood up for what he believed in and became sheriff of his own town as well. The story of this small town sheriff spread like wildfire and soon enough the story landed on a desk of a Hollywood Screenwriter. This spawned the Original “Walking Tall” which was made in 1973. Most people of my generation don’t even remember the film’s existence, in fact 4 rental store workers in my hometown were nice enough to inform me they thought I was wrong and that The Rock’s version isn’t even a remake at all.
The New Walking Tall runs only 86 minutes long, with credits included. However, it seems to be the perfect runtime for the film. The plot is straightforward from start to finish. The Rock Comes home, the rock gets into a fight. The Rock gets arrested. The Rock gets out, runs for Sheriff and wins. The Rock retaliates against anyone who opposed him. It’s a straight out action film from start to finish, which doesn’t rely on big budgeted explosions and high tech camera movements. The director keeps the film fairly straightforward and simple, and it works fairly well.
The Rock never ceases to impress me as of late. He was entertaining in “The Rundown” and equally entertaining in Walking Tall. The pro wrestler has charisma, and has found a way to transmit that onto the big screen, by focusing his career on action flicks. With opponents like Schwartzenegger out playing governor, Vin Diesel losing “action hero” status quickly, Jackie Chan who is getting to old, and Jet Li, who still looks far to constipated to be a “great” action star, The Rock has the looks, the attitude and the moves to be huge.
I’ve heard and read many a complaint about how they ruined the story, the Rock doesn’t resemble a redneck sheriff, and how they changed his characters name because they thought a name like Buford Pusser was to ridiculous. In other words, people judging the film by comparing it only to the original. I know I have been guilty of the same sins with other remakes. However, Sometimes you have to look beyond the original and look only at the remake. A remake isn’t always trying to do the same thing as the original, but instead add new twists and flavor that will bring it up to speed for the next generation to enjoy. Walking Tall does this fairly nicely. For those film geeks who criticized the remake of this film, ask yourself how many people would have watched the original in the future if the remake hadn’t been made. I can almost guarantee that those numbers would have been a lot less if there were no re-imagination of the original.
I had plenty of friends who laughed at this film, and said it wouldn’t work. It didn’t look entertaining to them, and some who feared for their lives when they heard someone was remaking the original “Walking Tall” (yes, somewhere hidden in their dark basements live a strange breed of 30+ year old movie geeks who worship the original film). Well, I kept an open mind, and I didn’t judge this book by the cover, and came out enjoying this flick. While it’s not cinematic gold and it’s just mindless fluff, I think it has a great message, telling people to never give up on something they believe in.
Years will pass and people will look back upon The Rock’s Walking Tall as they look back on Schwartzenegger’s “Commando.” Just like Walking Tall, Commando runs a short 80 minutes as well, and is an action hero destroying things from start to finish. While it’s not a masterpiece either, sometimes it’s just fun to see your big screen heroes beat some bad guys. There is no harm in that. Just like there was no harm done by remaking Walking Tall.