Director Kevin Bray’s 2004 remake of the 1973 thriller Walking Tall sees The Rock (aka Dwayne Johnson) walking tall in Joe Don Baker’s old role as a Vietnam vet who returns to his old rural Washington home town to find the mill where he’d worked now closed down and the joint replaced by a gambling den run by the nasty, drug-dealing owner (Neal McDonough).
Although The Rock is arrested, taken to court and tried after smashing the place up, he somehow ends up being elected town sheriff, who scarily carries a baseball bat and takes the law into his own hands to clean up the area. Now he’s the lawman, The Rock decides he can turn himself into a one-man army to take on and put out of action the redneck villain who rules his home town.
At only 87 minutes long (including a prolonged end-credits sequence), the movie seems too brief and skimpy, a bit sluggish at the start, then a bit rushed at the finish. On the plus side, it does deliver some exciting basic B-movie action, and, giving a credible performance and handling the action well, likeable tough guy The Rock emerges with his then still-growing reputation intact. Johnny Knoxville adds some quirky allure as his ex-delinquent sidekick Ray Templeton and McDonough is an excellent villain as Jay Hamilton.
If credibility and production values seem low, and the violence level is high, The Rock has the muscular star power to carry this short, fast and serviceable little action thriller. It has quite a good B-movie feel about it, though it had a largish budget of $56 million, a lot of money for this small kind of film in 2004. The rural Washington home town atmosphere is well established and depicted, and so are the characters, involvingly eccentric variants on stereotypes.
Based on the life of real-life Tennessee Sheriff Buford Pusser, the script changes the locations and The Rock’s character name to Chris Vaughn, but the film is still dedicated to the late Pusser.
© Derek Winnert 2014 Classic Film Review 903 derekwinnert.com