August 10, 2018

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Johnny Knoxville, Neal McDonough, Ashley Scott, Michael Bowen, Kevin Durand, John Beasley, Kristen Wilson. Directed by Kevin Bray. (2004/86 min).


Review by Tiger the Terrible😸

While Walking Tall is mostly a distant footnote in Johnson's career, it was nevertheless an important stepping stone to bigger and better things. The film might seem quaint compared to his later FX-driven blockbusters, but remains an amusing blast from his past.

And if you gotta do a remake, it makes a lot more sense to tackle one that's relatively forgotten or wasn't all that great to begin with. The original 1973 film fits the bill on both counts. It was refashioned in 2004 as a vehicle for Dwayne Johnson, back when he was primarily known as a pro wrestler (and still billed as 'The Rock'). In addition to exploiting Johnson's considerable physical attributes, this enjoyably daffy action film also allowed him to display his natural charisma (something Joe Don Baker never had).

What makes Johnson such an endearing action hero is that he's a lot like Arnold Schwarzenegger used to be...wisely picking projects which fit his persona and abilities. While this version borrows the initial premise of the original to make a high-concept action flick of its own, it still retains that film's take-no-prisoners spirit.
Johnson Pest Control.
Johnson plays Chris Vaughn, a military veteran returning to his hometown after eight years, only to find it under the control of former childhood friend and casino owner Jay Hamilton (Neil McDonough). When his nephew ends up in the hospital from drugs bought from Hamilton's bodyguards, Vaughn takes the law into his own hands and tears up the casino (along with a few thugs). After being arrested, he represents himself as the trial, promising that, if acquitted, he'll run for sheriff and clean up this town. Sure enough, he's found not guilty. In the very next scene, he's the elected sheriff, even though he's never so much as ridden in a police car. After deputizing his best friend Ray Templeton (Johnny Knoxville), the two proceed to try and bring Hamilton's operation down, using tactics that realistically land a real cop in prison.
But we're not talking Serpico here. Walking Tall is a film with no pretensions over what it is: a vehicle for Johnson to kick ass. Stallone traveled this road before, of course, as have many other action stars, but Johnson is a naturally likable guy and a pretty decent actor (not-to-mention he's his own special effect). Additionally, the fight scenes - there's a lot of 'em - are a refreshing throwback to the days before special effects allowed actors to leap 20 feet and throw punches which landed the recipient into another time zone.

Released at a time when Dwayne Johnson was just beginning to assert himself as the heir to Arnold's throne, Walking Tall may seem underwhelming compared to the mega-budget blockbusters he's known for today. Still, it's a fun, fast-moving film that plays to his strengths at the time. As part of MVD's new "Marquee Collection," this Blu-ray retains the same bonus features as previous releases, back when Johnson still had hair.

FEATURETTE - "Fight the Good Fight" (behind the scenes of the stunt choreography)
AUDIO COMMENTARIES - One with Dwayne Johnson, the other with director Kevin Bray


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