Walking Tall

The Rock lays down the law, with disappointing results

Director: Kevin Bray

Starring: The Rock (Dwayne Johnson), Johnny Knoxville, Neal McDonough

Website: http://www.walkingtallmovie.com/

Plot Summary: Retired soldier Chris Vaughn returns home to find his town's once-prosperous lumber mill closed. These days, the town's largest employer is a sleazy casino, from which his high school rival, Jay Hamilton (McDonough), runs a crime empire. Enlisting the help of old friend Ray Templeton (Knoxville), Vaughn runs for sheriff and vows to clean up the town.

Review: It's easy to mock The Rock for his WWF background but there are plenty of less competent actors who've turned muscles or a few moves into a Hollywood career. (Vin Diesel springs to mind.)

Whether the man born Dwayne Johnson can follow that path remains to be seen. Walking Tall probably isn't a step in the right direction, though.

Effectively a modern-day Western, Walking Tall pits a good sheriff against an evil mobster in a battle to win back the soul of a sin-soaked town.

The film is a remake of a 1973 cult movie, which was based on real events.

Given its solid premise, it's hard to see how things can go badly wrong, but director Bray and a team of four (re)writers have produced a curiously uneven end product.

The film begins slowly and relatively seriously, laboring over the introduction of the main characters and the fairly straightforward premise to the point where you're desperate for The Rock to beat somebody up (or for Johnny Knoxville to beat himself up).

Then, following a particularly silly courtroom scene, the film suddenly veers off into high-paced ludicrousness.

Apparently, Walking Tall was filmed as an ultra-violent adults-only fight-fest then re-cut to get a more child-friendly PG-13 rating - a decision that goes some way toward explaining the movie's choppy quality and unusually short runtime.

Partly because of this, the action, when it arrives, is a bit of a letdown. Even a scene where The Rock smashes up the casino with a large wooden club doesn't quite hit the spot.

The Rock himself is largely blameless for the film's shortcomings, smashing and beating his way through the film with considerable charm, and even managing a credible love scene with an old flame (Ashley Scott).

More disappointing is Knoxville, whose attempts to translate the anarchic spirit of Jackass into a comedy sidekick role are frequently awkward.

McDonough, who mainly works in TV, is surprisingly good. His piercing blue eyes add to a more genuine sense of menace than most action movie bad guys ever muster.

The end result, though, is a movie that's probably too dark to entertain most of The Rock's WWF fans and too slight to satisfy anyone else.

But if nothing else, the timing is great: Just four days after the grenade attack on Prague's Casino Royal, here's a film about a dodgy casino owner that even features an exploding SUV…

PTV Rating: 2 out of 5

Walking Tall Movie Times

Czech Premiere: Thursday, August 5th, 2004
Czech Title: Kráčející skála ("The Walking Rock")
Runtime: 1 hour, 26 minutes

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