‘Walking Tall’ falls short

Ryan Mathe

A wrestler turned actor who still goes by his WWE moniker ‘The Rock’ plays a 2×4 swinging, bad-ass ex-soldier who, with the help of his rehabilitated druggie friend (Johnny Knoxville), decides to take it upon himself to clean up the crime and corruption in his small home town once and for all. This cliched story of the lawless lawmaker is a tired and true, and works surprisingly well for “Walking Tall.”

The Rock plays ex-soldier turned vigilante sheriff Chris Vaughn, the kind of relaxed tough guy who does not want to start trouble, but will if pushed. The push comes from his childhood friend Jay, played by the icy blue-eyed Neal McDonough, from TV’s “Boomtown” or from his role in the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers.”

Jay is Chris’ childhood friend, but in the eight years Chris was gone, things changed. Jay used some of his newly inherited wealth to turn the town’s mill into a lucrative casino, which serves as both a good and bad thing for the townspeople.

While the casino provides the town with money and jobs, it also provides the children of the town with something else: drugs. With the corrupt police department doing nothing to stop the underground drug cartel and townspeople turning a blind eye, it is up to Chris and his big wooden stick to teach the bad guys a lesson.

“Walking Tall” is short but sweet, with a running time of just over an hour. The short running time does not let the movie drag on, and provides for quite an entertaining movie. On the other hand, “Walking Tall” seems as though it wanted to be something deeper, something with more of a purpose. The moral issues present in the story are only lightly touched on, and never fully explored, for better or worse.

I applaud Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson for his performance, which shows us a little bit of his dramatic side. His understated, soft-toned delivery turns some cheesy writing into not-so-bad one liners.

McDonough, whose only other recognizable role was in last year’s laughably bad “Timeline,” plays a villain like a villain should be played. He acts naive and innocent, but you can see the contempt for authority in his eerie blue eyes. Johnny Knoxville does a good job in his first semi-serious role, but do not look for him to turn legitimate actor anytime soon.

Overall the movie was well cast and well directed. The film suffers from its own short running time, and the sparse story line leaves room for improvement. In a time when million dollar special effects and epic gun battles seem all the rage, it is refreshing to see someone that kicks ass the old fashioned way. “Walking Tall” receives a grade of C+.