Walking Tall (2004)

Walking Tall (2004)
  • Time: 87 min
  • Genre: Action | Crime
  • Director: Kevin Bray
  • Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Johnny Knoxville, Michael Bowen, Ashley Scott


When a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces returns to his small hometown in rural Washington State hoping to realise a childhood dream of working in the local lumber mill, he discovers that much has changed, as the normally tranquil town is now besieged by drugs, outbreaks of violence and a general feeling of malaise and terror, with many pointing a finger at the influence of a crooked casino where his ex-girlfriend now works as a dancer. Seeking to wreak vengeance, with a four-foot-long 4-by-4 in his hand, and righteousness in his heart, the highly-trained soldier, now the county’s sheriff, and his deputy, realizes it’s time to bust some heads with a very hard piece of wood.

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  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has always had a strong fan base. Even starting out early in his film career, he had loyal followers just by playing the lead in the silly and yet fun The Scorpion King (2002). Although not every film The Rock auditioned for had this kind of tone, not many outside viewers could take him as a serious actor. Most of that skepticism was from his other career in the WWE. However no matter the case Johnson kept his feet in the pool and made a couple of movies here and there before he really took on more projects as years passed. For Johnson’s rise to stardom, it was his first batch of films that got him seen by more people. This film was one of them along with The Scorpion King (2002) and The Rundown (2003). Is it to say that this film tops or is equal to a lot of other great action/revenge films or the remake of Walking Tall (1973) it was based on – no. But does it still entertain? Yes.

    Directed by TV show director Kevin Bray and had a screenplay written by four people, this tale of “don’t mess with a man’s home” certainly shows how hostile people can become when their nostalgia is messed with. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays Chris Vaughn, a military veteran who just returned from service. After visiting his home, he heads out and begins to notice the town he grew up in isn’t all that it used to be. The lumber mill factory his father (John Beasley) used to work at is closed down. His young nephew is being influenced by the wrong people and an associate of his, Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough) established an out of place casino in the middle of town. That’s just a few things; as time goes on, Chris begins noticing more and more things that make him realize how far south his hometown has gone. Once Vaughn gets angry enough he grabs a 2×4 and takes matters into his own hands.

    Accompanying Vaughn in his self-made mission is Ray Templeton (Johnny Knoxville) and Deni (Ashley Scott). The character of Deni is an important part of the plot because she gives Vaughn another reason to retaliate. As for development, the four writers couldn’t manage to make her any different from any other action film. It’s not that say the development does not exist, it’s just overly predictable and cliche to use. It can be said that for the character of Ray (for people that know of Knoxville’s acting) that it’s not very different from other Knoxville performances. Yet, Knoxville is funny and lively edition to the cast. He balances out the straight, no games attitude Dwayne Johnson carries around and Ashley Scott’s typecast action role. There’s several moments where Knoxville is just allowed to go cuckoo and it just makes the appreciation for the character go way up. For all it’s worth, Knoxville may just be playing himself, who knows.

    Neal McDonough as the casino owner has a number of deadpan comical moments as well. This is mostly due to how he sees Chris Vaughn and how their relationship changes over time. Kevin Durand has a minor role in this film and although his character isn’t likable, his character also has a key part to play in the unfolding of the story. As for action, all sequences are well staged and pack enough energy to keep the film going (even if the end credits take up 12 minutes of time). Dwayne Johnson carrying anything (it doesn’t have to be a gun) as a weapon is an instant win just because of how sheer deadly he can be. However, in the writing there was a missed opportunity and that belongs to the finale fight. It’s not that it doesn’t look good or isn’t fun. The thing is, where the fight initially starts actually looks like it would’ve been a better setting for the final action sequence to take place. Sadly as soon as the setting was introduced, it was quickly moved to somewhere else. Imagine if it did stay there though (for those who saw it already)?

    The cinematography for this movie belongs to Glen MacPherson. Although a lot of MacPherson’s experience is being the director of photography for TV movies, his camerawork looks good here too. Even with a number of scenes taking place in doors, the shots are all well lit and have lots of color. Plus like several other cinematographers, getting shots of landscape is important to give the audience a sense of the scope the setting takes place in and MacPherson did that nicely. The music produced by Graeme Revell was adequate although it was a bit undistinguished. A number of scenes have country/rock soundtrack songs inserted for transition and then there’s just instrumental music that are only acoustic. It’s difficult to say whether that’s Revell or not. However when it came to action cues it was definitely Revell because of his use of tribal drums and electronic clicks. For those parts it reminisced to that of the Daredevil (2003) score. It is weird how Revell doesn’t get all of his scores released though. What’s the point of making music and not releasing it?

    Aside from a missed opportunity in setting for the finale and cliche character development, this is a lean, solid action flick. Dwayne Johnson brings the muscle into the action sequences, Johnny Knoxville brings the energy with the laughs, the music suits the scenes and the cinematography is well shot.

    Points Earned –> 7:10

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