ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  keven bray

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  action

LENGTH  -  106 minutes

RELEASED  -  2 april 2004


OFFICIAL SITE  -  walking tall

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $45,000,000
walking tall - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from walking tall at

buy the dvd from walking tall at

when a former member of the u.s. special forces returns to his small hometown in rural washington, he finds it over-run with prostitution, drugs, and violence.


poster from walking tall
buy the poster

filmed in british columbia.


picture from walking tall

picture from walking tall

picture from walking tall

picture from walking tall


one out of four possible stars

Having started his feature film career in the garb of an ancient, ax-wielding barbarian, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson broke into the movie blockbuster arena seemingly wishing to fill the void left by such film heroes as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. And in 2003's The Rundown (an entertaining pop-corn worthy jungle romp), he again played a tough character whose weapons of choice were great big pieces of whatever great big pieces happened to be in the general vicinity.

Walking Tall represents a continuation of that burgeoning "tradition" as The Rock not only wields a blunt instrument at everything that moves in this film, but he's also featured with a 4x4 piece of wood on the movie poster for the film. That very simple statement: big man with big stick make big trouble is the visceral basis for this film and if one is so inclined, glimpses of a social statement on the decline of small-town America can be found as well in various scenes. The story is designed to allow the audience to hold the most sympathy for Chris Vaughn (The Rock's character), because after seeing some of the violence perpetrated by Vaughn against some of the bad guys, audience support for his character might wear thin.

Just how far can a person go in the direction of vigilante violence before that person is just as much a criminal as the people he's trying to eliminate? This film comes very close to crossing that line, and for the weaker members of the audience, the flying fists, bloody noses, and shot-gun blasts might be too intense. The filmmakers seem determined at some points in the film to make the violence so pervasive and graphic that the heart of the story seems to skip a beat more than once. It's as if the filmmakers constructed a story around the maximum number of physical altercations they could fit in an hour and a half of screen time.

Beyond considerations on the conscience of the film and its characters, the technical read-out on the film is more than satisfactory for the genre, with equal amounts of hand-held camera work (usually employed during high-tension scenes where punches are landing), tracking shots of The Rock's giant stride as he struts around town, and panoramic views of Washington State (or in this case, British Columbia standing in for the rural Washington town), giving the audience a beautiful, if dirty view of the town. As in many factory towns, a layer of dust and grime seems to blanket all the buildings, and in this film, that look is faithfully reproduced by the art direction team. The soundtrack is filled with a rousing and charged orchestral score by Graeme Revell and is accompanied by a suitable number of metal-infused tunes.

One of the sticking points viewers might have with the film though is in its plot. There are a few blatant lapses of logic in the film that might stem from a faulty script or might be the result of an over-eager editor seeing that a few too many scenes landed on the cutting room floor during post-production. For example, when Vaughn decides to take his town back from the dregs of the universe by running for sheriff, he enlists his old buddy Ray in the role of deputy. But his sister is a cop in town and seems to disappear from the law-enforcement team completely in the second half of the film. Was this to make sure audiences saw that The Rock was capable of handling the bad guys without a woman's help?

But this strange trend is compounded with the appearance of The Rock's love interest, played by relative new-comer Ashley Scott, whose character, "Deni," seems to be included in the film simply to provide the audience with a scantily clad woman to gaze upon. Her role just doesn't seem warranted by the story and her love scene with The Rock seems extemporaneous. But in considering her scenes and the target audience for this film-of-fisticuffs, perhaps it is worth noting that the 18 to 24 year old male portion of the audience is probably the group being most intensely courted by the film's advertisers.

In other supporting roles, playing The Rock's ex-convict high school bud, "Ray," insane asylum Johnny Knoxville gives a performance filled with equal parts of humor (needed and welcome humor) and intensity. His role on the MTV show, "Jackass" apparently was a reference solely to his penchant for performing stupid tricks, not his ability to perform in feature films. In the role of Big Evil Dude, Neal McDonough seems to inspire a nice level of dread in his character, even though his character's motivations are usually one-sided and overly-simplified.

This film has been marketed toward fans of The Rock and toward action film aficionados. Placing Walking Tall in that light would probably garner this film a three-star rating, but for general audiences, the film is sometimes far too simple and far too violent for the casual viewer. This shouldn't be a film you just pluck off the shelf (or choose randomly from theater listings). If you like The Rock, you'll be pleased with his performance and the film. And if you adore the heavy use of shot-gun blasts (seventeen thousand pounds of the stuff must have been used for this film), you'll probably enjoy Walking Tall.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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