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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Walking Tall (review)

On the Geopolitical Ramifications of Big Sticks

Well, it’s no The Rundown, that’s for sure, and The Rundown wasn’t much to speak of except for The Rock and his charm and his charisma and his big toothy grin. He’s still got that movie-star It here, but It ain’t quite the same thing surrounded by action junk that thinks it’s serious drama. The Rock’s costar this time out is a big wooden stick, which is certainly an improvement over Sean Patrick William Michael George Henry Scott, but in all other aspects, this film cannot be said to be an upswing in The Rock’s Hollywood career.
The big stick is, I’m told, a holdover from the original 1973 film, but I avoid Joe Don Baker at all costs unless absolutely necessary, so I couldn’t say for sure. They changed the character’s name from the original — this isn’t a “remake,” cuz no one says “remake” anymore; it’s a “reimagining,” kinda like how in the music biz, “sampling” isn’t “stealing,” I think — because The Rock is the kind of guy who’d punch you in the face if you called him Buford anything, never mind Buford Pusser. Buford Pusser… it makes me laugh just thinking about it, so this was probably a good creative decision. But they went way in the opposite direction to get Chris Vaughn — why not call him Bob Smith while you’re at it? He’s a retired soldier, and it’s strongly hinted that he’s just returned from Iraq, which is where all our crazy action-hero guys are gonna come from for the next twenty years, I suspect, so that eventually someone will remake– er, reimagine Airplane! and the line will be “‘Over Fallujah?’ ‘I don’t think I’ll ever be over Fallujah.'” Anyway, the Iraq thing works, cuz this is all about vigilantism being Okay as long as you really, really know you’re right and there’s no one bigger than you around to stop you.

See, Chris returns home to his small Washington, not-British Columbia town to find it’s turned into alternate-Hilldale where Biff runs the casino and turned Marty’s mom into a drug addict. Only here Biff is Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough: Timeline, Minority Report), who went to high school with Chris and has turned Chris’s old girlfriend, Deni (Ashley Scott: S.W.A.T.), into a stripper. Oh, and Hamilton closed down the ol’ lumber mill where everyone labored happily, chopping up old-growth forests, breathing in sawdust, one suspects, and suffering from carpal-tunnel syndrome, and he’s got the cops in his pocket and the whole town under his sway. Eeeeeevil. Chris was dreaming of coming home to sawdust lung and crippled wrists, and now his dream is shattered. And only he has the cajones or the big stick enough — and maybe they’re really the same thing after all — to go after Hamilton and bring order and decency back to the town.

So Chris lumbers — heh: lumbers — through town swinging that big stick of his, smashing up stuff that belongs to Hamilton, like his casino and his goons and his car, and that’s Okay cuz if the cops ain’t doing their jobs then it must fall to the one really big guy with that really big stick, and cuz most of the town, except for Hamilton and his goons, thinks it’s Okay, too. Only Johnny Knoxville, a man who formerly set himself on fire to make money, is the voice of reason, pointing out to The Rock that, in his new capacity as the new sheriff, deputizing his best friend (that would be Knoxville), a convicted felon, is kinda how things get corrupted in the first place. It’s funny cuz it’s true, like how over in the real Iraq–

Hey, look at The Rock beat up guys who are without question bad and evil and stinky! Woo-hoo! Go, The Rock!


MPAA: rated PG-13 for sequences of intense violence, sexual content, drug material and language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
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