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COMMENT





'Walking Tall' comes up small
It'll be a hit ... on Pluto
By JIM SLOTEK - Toronto Sun


Yes, we can smell what The Rock is cooking. Well, more like what Vince McMahon and "WWE Films" is cooking. Admittedly, it's not like being the best actor at Stratford, but The Rock does stand out in the pantheon of wrestlers-turned-actor for his screen presence and powerful eyebrow-raising. Some day, he could carry a decent action flick, though Rowdy Roddy is still Olivier.

But this remake of a classic piece of manipulative '70s cheese serves only to make the original revenge fantasy look like Fellini by comparison. Padded from an earlier running time of 75 minutes, it's the original story as reinvented by someone with a brain injury.

For those too young to have experienced it, Walking Tall was a huge white-trash, vigilante-justice, cause-celebre in a decade that specialized in them (Billy Jack, Death Wish, Dirty Harry, etc.). It was loosely based on a real-life Southern Sheriff named Buford Pusser -- a former wrestler no less -- who came home to Tennessee to beat the crap out of corrupt local officials with his trademark two-by-four and clean up the town. He was played by the immortal Joe Don Baker, whose Actor's Studio cred was belied by his good ol' boy image.

The Rock's Walking Tall is also based on real life events -- on Pluto. Don't know why, but the character is no longer a wrestler named Buford Pusser, it's a U.S. Special Forces vet named Chris Vaughn. Don't know why, but it's no longer set in the Deep South but Washington state. Don't know why, but the evil villain is no longer a Boss Hawg, but a yuppie (Neal McDonough) who has closed down the town mill and replaced it with a casino/strip bar.

I do know why The Rock carries a four-by-four stud instead of a two-by-four. 'Cause he's The Rock. Duh.

There's more care for character development in your average night of Raw Is War. Chris comes home, discovers the casino is rigged, gets beaten up by security, and returns with his four-by-four after he discovers the casino goons are also selling drugs to children.

Having broken all their bones and smashed the casino, he gives a rousing speech to a jury which acquits him even though he clearly did what he was accused of. Can someone say mistrial?

He's elected sheriff a minute later and fires the police force except for himself and Johnny Knoxville of Jackass (who, we're guessing, is supposed to be comic relief, though we're still waiting for relief). The sheriff's powers apparently extend to reopening the mill (take that globalization!) and turning his stripper girlfriend into a fighting machine. That's her blasting away with a pump-action shotgun while wearing a red Victoria's Secret bra.

It's over? Whaddya mean it's over? There were only, like, two semi-decent ass-kickings in the entire movie.

Whatta rip. Somebody oughtta go into Hollywood with a big stick and clean up that town.

WALKING TALL

Time: 1 hour, 29 minutes

Rated: 14A

Director: Kevin Bray

Stars: The Rock, Neal McDonough, Johnny Knoxville

'Rock's cooking stinks'

Sun Rating 1 out of 5

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