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MGM Studios DVD presents
Walking Tall (2004)

Jay:What, did you get tired of being all that you could be?
Chris: No, I'm still all that I can be.
Jay: Yeah well we'll see about that.

- Neil McDonough, The Rock

Review By: Kevin Clemons  
Published: September 26, 2004

Stars: The Rock, Johnny Knoxville
Other Stars: Neil McDonough, Kristen Wilson, Ashley Scott, Michael Bowen, Khleo Thomas
Director: Kevin Bray

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense violence, sexual content, drug material and language.
Run Time: 01h:25m:52s
Release Date: September 28, 2004
UPC: 027616910745
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- C+BA- B-

DVD Review

If The Rundown showed The Rock as the possible heir to the action star crown, Walking Tall should all but cement his status at the top of the list. While the film has its fair share of flaws, The Rock's performance is charismatic and fun and makes this a worthwhile way to spend a scant hour and twenty minutes.

The film is a loose remake of the original film that starred Joe Don Baker as Buford Pusser, a South Tennessee sheriff who took it upon himself to clean up his town, which had been overrun with gamblers, drug dealers, and kingpins. He did so with the help of a piece of wood and a nasty attitude, and that film was pure escapist fun. This time around, The Rock plays Chris Vaughn, a former special forces operative, who has returned home after years in the military only to find out that the mill that all but funded the town has closed, and things just aren't as they used to be.

Most importantly, the town now features a casino that all but screams corruption from the local police to the owner/operator Jay Hamilton (McDonough) who has brought drugs and crime to the town. When Vaughn's young brother nearly dies from an overdose, Chris takes things into his own hands and after being beaten and left for dead, he promptly becomes the local sheriff and and begins a one-man war to win back his town.

Up until the point when Chris becomes Sheriff of the town the film moves along with enough energy and style that it maintains our interest. But eventually things devolve into nothing more than a silly action spectacle that never really goes in any one direction. Director Kevin Bray does a fine job, but the script never offers up enough development to make us care about those involved. Running a scant 85 minutes plus extended opening and closing credits, this is one of those rare instances where the film in question could have benefited from additional scenes, some of which are included as extra material on this DVD.

While the action is competently handled—with one sequence set in the police station that is nearly thrilling enough to allow the viewer to forget about the ridiculousness of the situation that precedes it—Bray also does a strong job in introducing us to the story, and at the beginning of the film there is hope that this will be more than a big dumb action film. Hope is, of course, a tricky thing. The film does fall into a trend of introducing clichés including the beautiful stripper who does so just to pay the bills, as well as a character who has sworn off guns only to... well you know the rest. Also rather mind-boggling is a sequence in which Chris defends himself in court and introduces a sort of self defense that is unintentionally funny.

But Bray populates his film with enough fine performances that they alone make the film a worthwhile effort. With a sort of quiet intensity that works well in this type of film, The Rock's performance is perhaps his best yet; he plays Chris as somewhat soft spoken with an inner calm that works to the film's and the character's advantage. More of a surprise is Johnny Knoxville as Chris's best friend Ray—it is a performance that could have been handled a million different ways, but Knoxville finds the perfect balance and creates the standout character in the film. McDonough plays Jay with the sense of evil needed but in some scenes he seems out of place, especially his final duel with Chris, which is more laughable than enthralling.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer Walking Tall fails to be as eye-catching as I had expected, instead the transfer is just average which is a real shame. Sharpness and detail are hampered by a constant softness throughout the film. Colors are sharp and well defined with no bleeding while there are some slight edge halos that appear on occasion.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is far from being the typical action film audio mix, as it is less immersing than I had hoped for. Surround use is fine but with all of the action sequences I had expected some truly amazing split surround effects, instead we get ambient sounds as well as an effect here and there. Dialogue is absolutely flawless with perfect depth and clarity, while the .1 LFE track provides some room shaking bass.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Soul Plane, Species III
3 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
1 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by The Rock, Director Kevin Bray, editor Robert Ivison, and cinematographer Glen MacPherson
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Outtakes
Extras Review: While not the huge hit MGM had hoped for, Walking Tall does come to DVD with a fairly impressive amount of extra material. The first is an audio commentary by The Rock in which he delves into several behind-the-scenes stories, including how he mistakenly trashed a Porsche so badly that the production had to incur the cost, as well as how it was working with his fellow actors. He discusses his reasons for taking the role and his appreciation of the technical level of the film. It is a very interesting track. The second audio commentary features director Kevin Bray, editor Robert Ivison, and cinematographer Glen MacPherson and it is not as successful as the first track. We do learn quite a few impressive details about the production including how many of the scenes featuring the backdrop pf the towns were digitally altered to add a more earthy quality as Vancouver was currently in the midst of a dry spell. There is also talk about why the film was remade and how they tried to honor the original films instead of simply putting their spin on the base story.

Next up are a trio of deleted scenes that run just a tad over two minutes. There is some attempted character development between Chris and his love interest, Deni (Scott), and also two brief scenes set in the casino. An alternate ending is also made available, although it does not include any of the action, it is simply an alternate epilogue.

A collection of outtakes is offered, as well as a brief look at the stunt work in the film. Trailers for Walking Tall, Soul Plane, and Species III round out the extra features.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

As my DVD collection grows, I am reminded everyday that there are films that I have in my possession that I would view once and never spin again. When the credits rolled on Walking Tall, I found myself knowing that at some point in the future I would revisit it, and that is the best praise I can give the film. It is an action film with a small hint that it wants to be something more. Recommended.


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