The Rock, Johnny Knoxville, Neal McDonough, Kristen Wilson, Ashley Scott, Khleo Thomas, John Beasley, Barbara Tarbuck, Michael Bowen
Mort Briskin (earlier screenplay), David Klass, Channing Gibson, David Levien, Brian Koppelman
One man will stand up for what's right.
After eight years, decorated Army veteran Chris Vaughn (The Rock) returns to his hometown and finds it ravaged by poverty, drugs and corruption. Its once-thriving lumber mill is closed, and a glitzy, crime-ridden casino is now the chief source of income. Pushed to the brink, Chris pushes back and soon becomes a target for murder. Now it's up to this Special Forces hero to clean up his town ... or die trying!
$15.501 million on 2836 screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0
Runtime: 86 min.
Release Date: 9/28/2004
• Audio Commentary with The Rock
• Audio Commentary with Director Kevin Bray, Director of Photography Glen MacPherson, and Editor Robert Ivison
• Deleted Scenes and Alternate Endings
• ďFight the Good FightĒ Stunts Featurette
• Photo Gallery
• Original Theatrical Trailer
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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
Walking Tall (2004)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 8, 2004)
The juryís still out on what kind of long-term career the Rock will have as an actor. So far heís played the lead in three flicks. His biggest hit came with the modest success of 2002ís Scorpion King, with its modest but decent gross of $90 million. In 2003, the Rock appeared in The Run Down, which only mustered a take of $47 million. For the Rockís most recent effort, he starred in a remake of Walking Tall, which grabbed a pretty lackluster $45 million.
Maybe the Rock needs to find himself some better properties and heíll sell more tickets. I never saw Run Down but didnít hear a lot of good things about it, while Scorpion was a thoroughly terrible piece of product. Walking Tall doesnít fall to those levels, but it fails to become much of a movie.
Here the Rock plays Chris Vaughn, a war hero who returns home to the Pacific Northwest for the first time in eight years. He finds the local mill closed, and we learn this put his father (John Beasley) out of work three years earlier. Sheriff Stan Watkins (Michael Bowen) greets Chris as a returning hero and drives him to his family home, where we meet his sister Michelle (Kristen Wilson), who now works for the police force. We also encounter his father and mother (Barbara Tarbuck) along with Michelleís son Pete (Khleo Thomas) and Chrisí friend Ray (Johnny Knoxville).
Chris also runs into local spoiled rich boy Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough), a smarmy sort who quickly closed the mill when he took control of it and who also operates the local casino. Chris tries to have fun, but matters deteriorate when he meets an old girlfriend named Deni (Ashley Scott), who works as a stripper in a peep booth. We also see that the casino cheats the customers. Chris confronts the folks there when they rip off his friend, which ends him up with a bad beating and near death.
Chris returns home to recuperate, and he sees the other ways the town has deteriorated since his departure. Hamilton tries to smooth things over with Chris and offers him a job as head of security as well as an envelope of cash, but Vaughn resists Hamiltonís attempts to corrupt him and still plans to pursue matters with the police.
Unfortunately, when he does so, Chris learns that the Watkins knows on which side his bread is buttered, as the police decline to accept his complaint. He swears that he wonít let the matter rest. When Deni comes by to visit, she off-handedly suggests that Chris run against Watkins for sheriff, and he decides to pursue this when he learns that Pete ODíed on crystal meth he got from casino employees.
Actually, Chris decides to start with some vigilante justice, as he heads to the casino and smashes up the place with what turns into his signature: a long beam of wood. This ultimately leads to his arrest and trial, at which he declares his intention to run for sheriff if the jury acquits him. Apparently more swayed by emotion than testimony, they do let him off the hook. Chris reclaims his beam of wood and later wins the election.
As sheriff, Chris fires all his deputies and starts his campaign to clean up his hometown. Inevitably, this runs him afoul of the more corrupt parties. The rest of the film follows Chrisí fight and its repercussions.
As an actor, the Rock definitely possesses some talent. That goes for most of his wrestling brethren; their contests are all performances, so they naturally know how to sell material. The Rock comes across as charming and personable and could potentially go a long way as an actor.
Unfortunately, he makes bad choices for his cinematic vehicles, and Tall offers nothing to alter his string of lackluster to bad movies. A lot of the problem with Tall comes from its utter simplicity. The film exists in a world of uncomplicated good and bad, with absolutely no gray area between the two extremes. We get vague hints of some depth to Chrisí character, as it seems odd that he avoided his family for so long. However, we only receive a rudimentary explanation for this, as it appears is dad wasnít happy he went into the military. Thatís it - no further investigation or exploration to this concept.
And thatís one of the better fleshed out concepts in the movie! The characters remain nothing more than bland archetypes. Chris is the stalwart do-gooder straight out of a western, while Hamilton only lacks a moustache to twirl. Actually, we can tell Hamiltonís a bad guy due to his bleached blond hair. I guess thatís the 21st century twist on this form of villain.
None of this makes for a very interesting movie. It doesnít help that the flick rushes through things so rapidly that it totally avoids depth or detail. Tall doesnít even reach the 90-minute mark, which makes it awfully short. It tosses out any form of character exposition or fleshed-out elements to emphasize the action, which leaves it as an unsatisfying work.
Actually, I will say that those action sequences tend to fare reasonably well. Director Kevin Bray leads the film in a workmanlike manner and brings little flair or spark to the proceedings, but he also does nothing to harm the action pieces. Theyíre not great, but they do add some life to an otherwise borderline unwatchable experience.
Bray also displays a regrettable tendency to favor musical montages. This ties into his preference to rush the action, as the montages let him pack in even more information in a short amount of time. These elements get pretty old quickly and they donít make the movie more inviting or exciting; they just seem like cheap devices.
Toss in arguably the most absurd trial sequence ever filmed and you have a generally weak movie. Walking Tall indulges in the occasional decent action sequence, but too much of the movie feels flat and uninspired. Itís a bland star vehicle without any depth or spark.
Running time footnote: Tall is one of the shortest feature releases in recent memory. Though it claims to last 86 minutes, it presents a long, slow-moving credit crawl. The movie really ends before the 74-minute mark; we get more than 12 minutes of credits!
The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-
Walking Tall appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Much of Tall looked great, but one consistent concerns knocked it down more than a few pegs.
What was that problem? Edge enhancement. I noticed prominent haloes through virtually the entire film. Iíve seen more egregious examples of edge enhancement in DVDs, but this one looked significantly more flawed than usual, as the haloes showed up consistently.
This was too bad, as almost everything else about the transfer seemed excellent. The edge enhancement created a slight amount of softness in some wide shots, but those remained minor. Instead, most of the flick came across as crisp and detailed. I saw no concerns with jagged edges or shimmering, and the image appeared totally devoid of any source defects, though the edge enhancement left the production with a moderately rough, digital look much of the time.
Tall avoided most forms of stylization, as it went with a natural and clean look. The colors appeared nicely smooth and concise. The tones always were lively and distinctive, with no issues connected to them. Blacks also seemed deep and rich, while low-light shots came across as dark and firm. Lose the edge enhancement and Walking Tall would be an ďAĒ-level transfer, but as it stood, I barely felt it merited a ďB-Ē.
For the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Walking Tall, we found a generally positive piece. The soundfield stayed mostly oriented toward the forward channels. There they presented nice delineation and separation, as the music gave us solid stereo imaging, and the effects were spread broadly and convincingly. The surrounds played a minor role and mostly came into the action with the smattering of more active sequences like when Chris trashes the casino. The rear speakers supported the material in a decent way but usually didnít add a tremendous amount to the action.
Audio quality appeared excellent. Speech consistently came across as natural and concise, and I noticed no signs of edginess or problems with intelligibility. Effects sounded distinctive and accurate, with appropriate range and good low-end as necessary. Music fared best, which was important given the filmís preponderance of montages. The score and songs both presented lively and bright tones with nice definition and force. Overall, the track didnít seem exceptional, but it worked well for the material.
Though it didnít light up the box office, Walking Tall comes equipped with a decent package of supplements. It presents two separate audio commentaries, and the first comes from actor the Rock. He offers a running, screen-specific affair that stands as his second solo commentary. He chatted with the director during Rundown but was on his own for Scorpion King. Unfortunately, that one really stunk, as the actor spoke rarely and told us little when he did vocalize.
While not a good track, the Rockís discussion of Tall definitely outdoes the older chat. Here he talks about his interest in the project, why they changed the name of his character, some acting and character choices, working with the others, and staging the fight sequences. An outsized personality, the Rock fashions himself as something of a comedian, and he makes many wisecracks throughout the conversation. He especially loves to joke that actor John Beasley is really George Foreman; if I took a drink every time he made that crack, Iíd be wasted by the end of the commentary. Most of the jokes arenít funny, and the track still suffers from too much dead air. Nonetheless, it offers an improvement over what I expected and seems entertaining enough, at least for fans.
We also find a commentary from director Kevin Bray, director of photography Glen MacPherson, and editor Robert Ivison. All three sit together for their running, screen-specific chat, though MacPherson arrives late. They go through some fairly basic subjects. They discuss variations from the original movie, sets, locations, editing, musical choices, stunts and various other production elements. A reasonable amount of information appears during this chat, but honestly, it doesnít feel like it adds up to much. The men remain low-key and the commentary never builds much momentum. That comes partially from their subdued style but also from the sporadic gaps that slow the piece. The track offers some decent rudiments of the production but little that seems revealing or intriguing appears.
Next we get a collection of three Deleted Scenes and an Alternate Ending. All together, the three deleted scenes run a mere 100 seconds, so donít expect anything from them. We see a little more of the fun at the casino plus a very short chat in which Deni tries to dissuade Chris from running for sheriff as well as a little bonding between Chris and Pete.
The alternate ending lasts only 80 seconds. It features Chris and Ray as they shoot the breeze on the formerís family porch. Despite the clipís brevity, itís too long for this kind of tale and was cut appropriately, as it wouldíve ended the movie on a very dull note.
For a featurette, we head to Fight the Good Fight. It runs eight minutes, 44 seconds and looks into the flickís stunts. After an introduction from the Rock, we get a mix of movie shots, behind the scenes elements, and interviews. We hear from Bray, who leads us through the styles of the fights, and also get notes from the Rock, stunt coordinator Jeff Habberstad, and actor Neal McDonough. Some minor tidbits appear, like Brayís early plan to replace the block of wood with an aluminum bat, but a lot of the piece just consists of praise for the lack of smooth choreography and special effects; everyone tells us how raw the fights were. Habberstad tosses out a decent overview of the process, though, and the shots from the set offer some fun material. ďFightĒ lacks depth but it merits a look.
A set of bloopers fills 48 seconds. We get a few goofs from the Rock and thatís it. In the Photo Gallery, we discover 28 pictures. These mix shots from the set with publicity images and add little to the package.
The DVD opens with a few ads. We get trailers for Soul Plane and Species III. The latter also appears in the Other Great MGM Releases area along with promos for Bulletproof Monk, Dark Blue, Out of Time, Men of Action, ďMGM Means Great MoviesĒ and the Everything or Nothing videogame. Finally, the trailer for Tall also appears, as does a Species III Sneak Peek. That clip fills five minutes, 20 seconds, as we check out the action on the set. We hear from actors Natasha Henstridge, Robin Dunne, JP Pitoc, and Sunny Mabrey, director Brad Turner, producer David Dwiggins, and engineer/puppeteer Christian Ristow. They mostly discuss the story and what to expect from the film in this promotional featurette.
Since I never saw the original Walking Tall with Joe Don Baker, I canít compare it to the 2004 remake, but I must imagine that the old flick surpassed the new one. The Rock displays an engaging personality, but otherwise the film offered little life or excitement, as it just seemed predictable and underdeveloped. The DVD provided decent picture marred by too much edge enhancement plus very good audio and a spotty but moderately useful set of extras. A silly movie and an erratic DVD, I canít recommend Walking Tall.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1111 Stars|| Number of Votes: 27|