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Movie Review

Walking Tall

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

Reviewed by: Evan D. Baltz

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Mature Teens and Adults
Action Adventure and Crime/Gangster
1 hr. 26 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Copyright, MGM
Copyright, MGM
Copyright, MGM
Copyright, MGM
Copyright, MGM
Copyright, MGM
Featuring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (The Rundown; The Scorpion King; The Mummy Returns)
Kristen Wilson (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind; Dr. Dolittle 2; Dungeons and Dragons)
Neal McDonough (Timeline; Minority Report)
Ashley Scott (S.W.A.T.; A.I.: Artificial Intelligence)
Johnny Knoxville (Big Trouble; Deuces Wild; Jackass: The Movie)
Director: Kevin Bray (All About the Benjamins)
Producer: Jim Burke, Paul Schiff, Lucas Foster, Ashok Amritraj, David Hoberman
Distributor: MGM

President Theodore Roosevlet is known for having said one should “Walk softly and carry a big stick.” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s character, Chris Vaughn, believes one should walk tall and carry a four foot long, 4x4 piece of lumber. However, this needless remake of the 1973 movie of the same name (starring Joe Don Baker) was more of an adventure of walking slowly from one cliché to another, and walking violently from one professional wrestling-esque fight to the next. Somehow the screenplay barely seemed able to fill the less than 80 minute running time of this movie, which had me hoping Hollywood might “Walk Original” next time around.

I had fond memories of the ’70s “Walking Tall” trilogy. It seemed realistic, and the main character, based on the real life of Tennessee Sheriff Buford Pusser, carried the big stick with more heart than this current remake. Ironically enough, in the 1973 version, Buford Pusser decides to settle down after a career in professional wrestling. This time around, The Rock, professional wrestling superstar in real life, plays the lead. The story, as the movie tells us during the opening credits, was “inspired by a true story.” Unfortunately, nothing in this movie rings true or feels inspired. But, the story has been given a more modern spin. What was moonshine and gambling, is now drugs and gambling.

Army Special Forces Sergeant Chris Vaughn returns to his childhood home after 8 year of military service. We aren’t told why exactly, but the movie’s villain, Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough from Minority Report) insinuates that Chris couldn’t take the pressure any more.

Chris returns to his family home, where his father (John Beasley from Sum of all Fears), mother, sister, and nephew are living. The town has changed though. The mill that used to employ most of the town closed down and has been replaced by the Wild Cherry Casino, run by Chris’ old “friend” Jay Hamilton. The casino is now the source of most of the money in town and so is protected by current police and Sheriff Watkins (Michael Bowan).

The casino is also the source of the town’s corruption, which includes dirty gambling, scantily-clad pole dancers, private peep shows and drugs. When Chris discovers this corruption, he erupts and engages in a barroom brawl with casino security thugs, who eventually leave him for dead by the side of the road.

However, when Chris attempts to bring his suffering to the police, he is instead warned to keep silent. Chris defiantly replies, “This will not stand.” The police aren’t moved, and neither is the audience I suspect. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson delivers many of his clichéd, poorly written lines with stiff, passionless vibrato. So, when he utters the even more ridiculous line, “I’m going to fix this town,” we hardly jump into the ring with The Rock.

After being acquitted in court of the charges against him, Chris Vaughn decides he should become Sheriff, and of course does. After firing all the former police staff, he and his newly deputized old friend, Ray, go on a bust ’em up and take-names rampage. Chris’ weapon of choice? A 4-foot-long piece of cedar.

Chris hooks up with old girlfriend Deni, who quits her job as a peep show stripper at the casino. After a night of implied sex, the Sheriff and his gal, who is conveniently left wearing a bra for most of the scene, are the objects of the casino owner’s wrath. Chris’ family is also brought into the violence.

Most of the violence is standard Hollywood fare, played sometimes for effect and other times for laughs. This confusion causes the movie to be very uneven in its tone and message. Most of the audience laughed through the violence. In the original movie, the tone, albeit fairly singular in note, was at least consistent and serious.

The Sheriff is able to finally confront the villain face to face in the old town mill, which has been converted into a meth lab. At this point, I found myself not really caring about any of the characters or the outcome.

The movie doesn’t really attempt to be anything significant, or answer any real questions about violence or vengeance. The question could be asked, “Is violence or vengeance ever justified?” Or, “does the end justify the means?” The spiritual implications of these questions are worthy of study and discussion. Talking about them with friends would be a better usage of an hour-and-a-half than sitting low through “Walking Tall.”

Copyright, MGM

The movie is rated PG-13 for violence and language. Some violence is fairly standard TV style, but at least 5 people are killed in gunfights. There are 9 usages of objectionable words including several of the 4-letter variety, but in all the language was relatively mild, and the Lord’s name was not taken in vain. There are also scenes of pole dancing women in skimpy clothes, but no nudity. Drugs and beer are consumed in several shots.

Grade: C- (rent the original instead)

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Minor

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Neutral—I personally thought this movie was really good, I would definitely see it again. But it is not for children 16 or under. There was quite a bit of violence but he was making a point which was justified. And he never used a gun, because he didn’t like to kill people. There was some unnecessary stripping but no nudity. Some drug content but not in a positive light. It’s one of the better movies I have seen recently.
My Ratings: [Average/3½]
—Rachel Brooks, age 24
Neutral—This movie, though it was full of good action, and a very good story, was full of possible lust. Lust is a problem in today’s American culture. As time goes by things seem to get more tolerated. This movie is no exception. There were scenes in this movie where women were striped down to their undergarments and dancing provocatively. There was also a sex scene in which a woman once again is found shirtless. I would not recommend that any man see this movie. It has things that could possibly make one stumble in their walk. Depending on what you struggle with this movie is not good for a man dealing with a lustful heart. Please Guard you heart, it is the key to everything!!
My Ratings: [Average/3]
—Samm Stifton, age 21
Positive—Good overcomes evil movie. “The Rock” plays our Hero Role, but even though he is considered the good guy he has his draw backs. Sex outside of marriage, unneeded violence, excessive drinking, fornication and drugs are all associated with this film. I wouldn’t suggest it for anyone younger than 18. You can rent the clean version from, which then 13 or older could enjoy the movie.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Brother Mathis, age 29
Negative—There was nudity in a strip club at the beginning of the movie. I was extremely offended by it!
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/1½]
—Stephanie Anderson, age 19
Negative—Despite of the other comments I have to say I did not like the movie. It would be easy to try to justify this movie, but its either black or white. It pretty much killing people with a board—and sex (although there is only one sex scene, there is plenty of poorly dressed girls, as the movie is base on a casino and strip club). I wouldn’t recommend this movie.
My Ratings: [Offensive/1]
—Justin, age 23
Comments from young people
Neutral—…family viewing NO. This is a really good movie even though their was some nudity that was completely unnecessary, but the truth is anyone 16 and above should see this movie to see what dangers lie around in the world of drugs and violence. And one man decides to stand up and fight back. I thought the movie was well done—little un-needed language and sexual subject.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Preston, age 16
Movie Critics
…Tall tale falls short of original…
—Jennie Punter, Globe and Mail
…a fine shoot-’em-up remake. The story is mildly gripping, and the action is fresh and entertaining…
—Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune
…every person and every turn of the plot, is just an excuse for more bone-crunching mayhem…
—Margaret A. McGurk, The Cincinnati Enquirer
…a lean, mean revenge picture that works on a purely visceral level… there’s never a sense of surprise as he takes on the bad guys and wins, again and again…
—Mack Bates, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
…it’s very hard to look past the message this movie sends out, which is that two wrongs actually do make a right… acts of gross vigilante violence…
—Peter Howell, Toronto Star
…aggressively manipulative… utterly ridiculous… brisk, taut pace… Remake full of lowbrow charm…
—Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald