Walking Tall

Walking Tall (2004)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Dwayne ’The Rock’ Johnson, Johnny Knoxville, Neal McDonough
Extras: Commentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Alternate Ending, Promo, Trailers and more

Based on the real-life exploits of Sheriff Buford Pusser, The Rock stars in a remake of the popular 1973 original. Upon arriving home to work at the local wood mill, U.S Army Special Forces Chris Vaughn finds that his home town is very different from that in which he left years prior. Drugs, violence and an overall sense of fear now plague the streets. It’s up to The Rock, with 2×4 in hand, to take back the town and all that stands between him is a crooked casino and its even sleazier owner Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough).

Kevin Bray, whose only other known film worth mentioning is the Ice Cube flick "All About the Benjamin’s", directs this mediocre action film. And when I say mediocre, it’s not because of the acting or the plot. The Rock does a perfect job in creating a believable character we can all sympathize with and Jay Hamilton is also note worthy in his portrayal of the local mob boss. It’s just that the film is far too short. It clocks in at 86 minutes but that’s also including the "13 minutes!" of end credits. That means the movie is just over an hour long and it shows. Chris Vaughn’s transition from badly beaten local to town sheriff occurs to quickly. This is an action film, not a drama, but they easily could of added another 20 minutes or more to develop at bit more credibility to the story. And once he’s Sheriff the entire movie seems to be on fast-forward without a moment to rest. On the other hand the action sequences are good. But the next time I watch an action film and a mob of people attack the protagonist of the film one by one instead of ganging up on him all at once, I’m going to scream. Surprisingly Johnny Knoxville does a decent job playing Ray Templeton, the childhood friend, and chief deputy, of Chris Vaughn.

Presented in its original theatrical aspect 2.35:1, this <$16x9,16x9 enhanced> DVD looks okay. Haloing is present all throughout the film. Look at the outlines around characters on screen and you’ll see a slight ghosting pattern. Colors are decent. The film has nice flesh tones and because the film is suppose to take place in Kitsap County, Washington, the surrounding foliage gives off a nice natural look. Black level is also decent. The low level details in the casino/strip bar/brothel are good. The strip scene exhibits the best test of blacks in this film. And remember this is a PG-13 film so there’s no nudity just in case you were getting excited. Image detailing is minimal as the entire picture does have a soft look to it. I’ve never been thrilled with MGM’s transfers, but perhaps the tiny budget of this film is more at fault. Any traces of digital artifacts are nicely kept at bay.

On the other hand the English <$DD,Dolby Digital> 5.1 is really nice. Action films are quite as engaging if they come with a great hard kicking soundtrack. Being that The Rock carries around a large piece of cedar during the last half of the film, the impact of that wood hitting not only slot machines but hitting someone directly in the jaw, has to have a good Foley team. Each impact is felt when it hits its mark. Gunfire is loud and dynamic. As well as the few explosions in the movie have a lot of force behind them. Dialog is crisp and clean too. In my last review (Scooby-Doo 2) I complained about the poor use of scripted music in key sequences throughout the film. The opposite is the case here. I not only enjoyed the soundtrack they chose, but I also felt the music tied into the particular scene very well.

The extras on disc are limited. We get a quick promotional spiff staring the cast and crew of the film promoting the film in a 5 minute spot called "Fight the good fight". Not really that interesting. We also get some deleted scenes and a alternate ending which don’t add anything to the film and were cut from the film due to pacing. Funny considering the film wasn’t that long to begin with. There’s also a Blooper real, Photo Gallery and some theatrical/video trailers for Walking Tall, Species 3, and other MGM catalog titles. The only interesting extras are the commentaries. The first is with The Rock and the second is with Director Kevin Bray, Director of Photography Glen MacPherson & Editor Robert Ivison. Having a commentary by The Rock is interesting. This is not an "art house" commentary as he puts it but it’s interesting listening to his comments. And there’s one particular comment during the film when they’re going to the lumberyard that cracked me up because I was asking myself the very same question when watching the film.

The Rock is definitely this generation’s action star of choice. He has great charisma on screen, makes the ladies go crazy and it doesn’t hurt that he’s built like a tank. Comparing him to past stars like Sylvester Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damme, and the man who is the definition of an action star, Arnold Schwarzennegar, it’s safe to say that Dwayne Johnson does a great job at what he does. Now if only specific key plot points in the film were further developed and the film ran longer, this would have been a better film. Next on The Rock’s agenda is John Woo’s upcoming film Spy Hunter, based on the hit video series. Maybe The Rock will help re-establish John Woo’s career as a great action director. We’ll just have to wait and see.