Walking Tall

The third remake in as many weeks, “Walking Tall” is a serviceable reworking of the 1973 film about real life southern sheriff Buford Pusser. Like most modern remakes, “Walking Tall” is inspired rather than based on the original, giving the filmmakers an opportunity to put their own stamp on it.

What’s left is an inferior framework that disintegrates under the weight of a convoluted screenplay. Serviceable only as an exercise in make-believe mayhem, it’s frightening that it took four writers (David Klass, Channing Gibson, David Levien, Brian Koppelman) to commit this anemic brainchild to paper. Their alterations do little to make the story fresh and invigorating, reducing what was once heartfelt and justified into transparent motivations to fuel the film’s sucker punch mentality.

Gone is the family dynamic that turned an ordinary man into a badge-wearing vigilante. Joe Don Baker cut an opposing figure as Pusser, a Tennessee small town man who decided to take the law into his own hands after criminal elements set up shop. Pusser’s story was gripping because he was just an average Joe willing to stand up to a corrupt system, paying the ultimate price along the way. Pusser may have been too good to be true, but after fate stacked the cards against him, we not only understood his anger, but welcomed it as a means to an end.

“Walking Tall” wasn’t a great film, but it was a highly effective film, one that has stood the test of time. Until now. Director Kevin Bray understands that he’s not really remaking “Walking Tall,” but creating a showcase for The Rock, who fortunately walks tall, carries a big stick, and doesn’t say very much. The action lacks the viciousness of the original, toned down for a consumer- friendly PG-13 rating. Instead of your garden variety, home grown son, Chris Vaughn (The Rock) returns to home to Washington with eight years of Special Ops training under his belt.

That immediately makes him a worthy adversary for former friend turned local opportunist Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough), who has shuttered the local paper mill and opened a money draining casino. Setting “Walking Tall” in the Pacific Northwest allows the filmmakers to arm Vaughn with the equivalent of Pusser’s trademark baseball bat, a slab of lumber that can do some major damage.

The filmmakers do damage by streamlining the plot into nothing more than a series of grudge matches, each one longer than the last. The characters suffer, forced to use shorthand to make an impression. They lose.

The Rock Gets Wood Wrestler walks tall, carries big stick


The Rock, Johnny Knoxville, Neal McDonough, Kristen Wilson, Ashley Scott, John Beasley. Directed by Kevin Bray. Rated PG-13. 86 Minutes.


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