DVD Review HTF Review: Walking Tall

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jason Perez, Sep 9, 2004.

  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

    Jul 6, 2003
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    Walking Tall

    Studio: MGM
    Year: 2004
    Rated: PG-13
    Running Time: 86 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16x9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
    Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Mandarin, and Cantonese
    Audio: English – Dolby Digital 5.1; French and Spanish – Stereo Surround

    Release Date:
    September 28th, 2004

    Walking Tall is reportedly “based on a true story”, but I think that statement is actually somewhat misleading. It is probably more precise to say that the source of inspiration for the Rock’s latest action vehicle is a 1973 film that goes by the same name, which was in turn based upon actual events. That particular film, which starred Joe Don Baker, was inspired by the life and times of Sheriff Buford Pusser, who bravely battled against prostitution rings and organized crime outfits in McNairy County, Tennessee from 1964-1970. Indeed, even after becoming Sheriff, Mr. Pusser had to persevere, to the point his family was put in jeopardy due to his promise to clean up McNairy County. Obviously, lesser men would have walked away…but Buford Pusser’s courage and resolve matched his large stature.

    Now, unlike the Joe Don Baker film, this re-imagining of Walking Tall, starring the very likeable “The Rock” (aka Dwayne Johnson), renames the lead character Chris Vaughn and moves him out of Tennessee to a semi-rural area in Washington state. And as we join the story, Chris is returning home after a long 8-year stint in the military, where he was a Special Forces operative. Unfortunately, Chris’ return is not the happy homecoming he had hoped for, as he is shocked and saddened to discover that the beautiful, peaceful town he left has become a hotbed of criminal activity. Apparently, the main reason for this is that during Chris’ time in the service, the lumber mill’s owner, and Chris’ former high school rival, Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough), shut it down and opened the more lucrative “Wild Cherry” gambling establishment in its place!

    As was the case with the lumber mill, the new casino is the town’s chief source of revenue, so the local authorities, led by Sheriff Watkins (Michael Bowen), are obliged (and perhaps paid) to overlook crimes involving casino personnel. Apparently, in addition to making it easy for his casino to turn a profit, this lax system of law enforcement has also given Hamilton and his group of thugs the leeway to get into the drug trade. In the time Chris was away, the drugs they are pushing have become a big problem in town, even affecting some of those closest to him.

    After returning to find so many changes in the town he loved, Chris is a little taken back, but he really becomes incensed when he finds out that the casino is fleecing patrons out of their hard earned cash by using loaded dice at its craps table. When he confronts the game’s stickman, Hamilton’s security force intervenes, and beats Chris down, leaving him a battered, bloody, and half-dead mess. But believe it or not, things get even worse from there, for as the police are in league with Hamilton and his goons, they do nothing about Vaughn’s complaint involving the crooked craps game and subsequent assault by casino security.

    As mad as Chris is about this, the final straw comes when his nephew Pete (Khleo Thomas) almost overdoses on some crystal meth that his friends supposedly obtained from the casino security force. After this turn of events, Chris really loses it, and heads over to the casino to pay the evil entrepreneur Hamilton an unwanted visit. And since the cops won’t help, during this “visit” to the Wild Cherry, Vaughn uses his trademark 4x4 to wreck the casino and return the beating that the casino security force inflicted upon him.

    Now here is where the movie really kicks into high gear – and also where my minor quibbles with it start to become cases of full-blown irritation. First of all, since his information is from a questionable source, namely a strung out kid, Vaughn cannot be 100% sure that either the casino security or Hamilton is responsible for selling Pete’s friends drugs. Even so, Chris rushes headlong towards the casino with violence, and possibly murder, on his mind. Even if the local sheriff would not act on Chris’ complaints, he could have contacted federal authorities, or tried any number of other legitimate channels, before buying himself a one-way ticket to either a cemetery or prison via a violent outburst like this, not to mention getting his family and friends in the thick of things!

    Even more ridiculous than how quickly Chris resorts to vigilante justice is how his subsequent trial plays out! Seriously, the guy is charged with crimes that he is clearly guilty of, committed in front of scores of witnesses no less…and yet Chris still dismisses his attorney (who had brokered him a sweet plea deal) right in the middle of the trial! As if that is not preposterous enough, while acting as his own lawyer, Chris delivers a really cheesy speech to the jury about how he is not guilty of any wrongdoing because he was only fighting to protect the sanctity of his hometown. And wouldn’t you know it - the jury completely disregards the rules of the judicial system and acquits him, while the judge sits back and does nothing!!! Subsequently, Chris runs for the office of sheriff, gets elected on the promise that he will clean up the town, and fires all of Watkins’ deputies.

    Frankly, it is really unbelievable that any of this happens at all, but even more absurd is that it all happens within the course of only a few minutes of screen time. More irritating still was how director Kevin Bray and company assume that we will support the protagonist simply because he is supposed to be a stand up guy who loves his family, loves his hometown, and fought for his country. Hell, to me it seems as if they were desperately trying to force viewers to feel such sentiments by having them sit through several excruciating establishment scenes with Chris’ parents (John Beasley and Barbara Tarbuck) and his sister (Kristen Wilson) at the outset of the film.

    Frankly, in my opinion, despite a valiant effort from The Rock, Chris Vaughn is not a very likable character at all. I give him lots of credit for having the integrity to stand up for what he believes is right, and for protecting his family, but he behaves like an uncivilized brute, and is more than willing to exercise vigilante justice any time things don’t go his way. Even worse, after appointing his old buddy Ray (Johnny Knoxville, on board purely for comic relief) as a deputy, Vaughn completely and totally abuses his office once he is elected sheriff.

    Another thing that I took issue with was the lack of scenes establishing that the town has become as seedy and troubled as Ray and Chris would have us believe. Really, there are only a handful of shots of people buying narcotics, and while a casino replaced the lumber mill, the streets look very clean, and there are no other obvious signs of urban decay. True, the town has a gaming establishment, Chris’ ex, Deni (the lovely Ashley Scott) has become a stripper, and we are shown the exterior of an adult video store, but those few minor things don’t make a town a bad place to live all on their own. Personally, I think this film is just too brief as is, and that more needed to be done to really sell the town’s decline. Perhaps then I could have been a little more at peace with Chris’ actions.

    Speaking of action, I did like the realism of the fight sequences, as they were designed with the intent of putting viewers right in the middle of the fights. Without question, their realism makes them enjoyable, if only on a purely visceral level, and it is refreshing to see an action film without any obvious wirework or hundreds of henchmen that know martial arts. That being said, the action scenes are still a bit too claustrophobic and hastily edited for my liking.

    The longer that I think about it, I just don’t see much that is right with this movie. Maybe I would feel a bit differently if I had only seen it once, but in watching intently a couple of times, I am amazed at just how illogical and superficial Walking Tall is. If you really want to know more about Sheriff Buford Pusser, I suggest picking up the book “The 12th of August: The Story of Buford Pusser” by W.R. Morris, or maybe even checking out the 1973 version of Walking Tall. If you just want a fun action vehicle with a bit of humor in it, I recommend The Rundown, which just so happens to star The Rock. This film, inspired by the story of the legendary Buford Pusser, just doesn’t have that much to show for all of its inspiration.

    Walking Tall, presented in its original aspect ratio (2.35:1), anamorphically enhanced for widescreen displays, is very easy on the eyes. Really, I thought picture quality was above average in every respect, particularly in the case color rendering. To be more specific, colors are bold and well saturated, from the stark white of Hamilton’s Escalade to the lush greens and rustic browns of Washington State. Flesh tones are similarly smooth and natural in their appearance, bringing out the differences in skin tones between the characters.

    The film also comes to DVD with deep, rich blacks that bring out the details and sharp edges in darker environments, like the underneath of the sheriff’s station, and the VIP section of the Wild Cherry casino. In terms of overall detail, the image does look a bit “soft”, but it is not a softness that I would categorize as detracting from the viewing experience, as objects in the backgrounds of most scenes exhibit a satisfying level of detail.

    Finally, the print used was extremely clean and clear, with absolutely no damage or distractions to speak of. Indeed, the only quibble I had was a bit of ringing around light/dark transitions, which presents a very minor distraction at various times throughout the feature. All things considered though, the absence of compression artifacts and the aforementioned qualities far outweigh the minor distraction occasionally caused by edge enhancement halos. Bottom line, this is a jolly good transfer!

    When it comes to sound, Walking Tall sure swings a big stick! All kidding (and lame puns [​IMG] ) aside, the 5.1 channel Dolby Digital track is as solid as The Rock’s biceps, and adds quite a bit of excitement to the film’s many action sequences. Of course, there is some talking in between the more violent portions of the film, and the presentation of dialogue comes off without a hitch, as it is always discernable and free of distortion or defects.

    I doubt anyone is watching this film for the dialogue, so let’s break down the rest of the soundtrack. First and foremost, the .1 channel sees a lot of action, and really emphasizes every bone-crunching punch, gunshot, explosion, or 4x4 to the cranium. The surrounds are also quite active throughout, whether they are adding to the excitement of the action sequences, reproducing location-specific effects, or simply reinforcing the film’s score and sourced music.

    I may not have enjoyed the film too much but I did enjoy listening to it!!!


    Audio Commentary #1
    In the first feature-length audio commentary track for Walking Tall, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson lets listeners know right out of the gate that he is going to deliver a non-traditional, boisterous commentary on the film. For the most part, he is right, yet in addition to entertaining, he also provides quite a bit of detail on the film. Some of the highlights included:

    --- Discussions about how the project came into being, and about the reasons behind changing the lead character’s name from Buford Pusser to Chris Vaughn.

    --- The Rock talking about how hard the makeup artists had to work to cover his many tattoos, and the process of coming up with the Special Forces tattoo that adorns Chris Vaughn’s left arm.

    --- A revelation that there was a fight scene edited out of the “friendly” football game that occurs shortly into the film.

    All in all, this is a pretty entertaining commentary track, but in addition to being humorous and lively, The Rock also offers listeners enough insight into the film to make it worth a listen, especially if you are a fan of either this film or The Rock! By the way, be sure to listen for when The Rock points out the many appearances of former heavyweight boxing champion and griller extraordinaire George Foreman.

    Audio Commentary #2
    The second audio commentary for Walking Tall is by director Kevin Bray, Director of Photography Glenn MacPherson (who showed up late), and editor Robert Ivison. Although it is not quite as jovial as the track turned in by The Rock, all three men are easy to listen to, and they provide even more detail about the process of putting the film together. Some of the highlights were:

    --- The trio discussing some of the scenes that were deleted from the film.

    --- Director Kevin Bray talking about the decision to change the main character’s name, in order to “be true” to Sheriff Buford Pusser’s legacy.

    --- A talk about some of the post-production work that was done in the “digital domain”, to ensure that colors looked exactly as Kevin Bray wanted, and so forth.

    --- The three gentlemen revealing that the intent behind the way the fight scenes were choreographed and shot was to pull viewers right into the middle of the sequence.

    Again, this commentary is a although this commentary is not quite as fun to listen to as the one turned in by The Rock, it was still a very pleasant listen, and contains plenty of behind-the-scenes anecdotes and information on the technical processes used to put the film together.

    This very short, blink and you’ll miss it blooper reel features a couple clips of The Rock dealing with prop malfunctions, goofing around, and flubbing lines. A couple of the clips are actually quite funny, but this extra is over way too quickly.

    Deleted Scenes
    There are three deleted scenes included. They are briefly described as follows:

    --- “Black Jack”
    Chris settles in for a few hands of blackjack at Hamilton’s crooked casino.

    --- “He Hurts People”
    This scene features a very brief snippet of a conversation between Chris and Deni.

    --- “It’s Not Your Fault”
    In this scene, Chris and Pete share a moment of understanding.

    The Porch
    In this “never-before-seen” alternate ending, Chris and Ray shoot the breeze on the front porch of the Vaughn family home
    . In my opinion, it was wise not to go with this ending, as it seems to drag, despite being just over a minute long. The ending used in the final version of the film seems much tighter to me, and says much more with less dialogue.

    Fight the Good Fight
    This nearly 9-minute featurette on the creation of the film’s stunts is hosted by The Rock, and includes interviews with director Kevin Bray, stunt coordinator Jeff Habberstad, and The Rock, as well as behind-the-scenes footage. Over the course of the piece, the participants talk about how they created the intense action sequences, and how each incident of violence was designed to have a different “feel” and enhance the narrative. In addition, there is talk about how the fight scenes were choreographed, and the initial location that the final fight was supposed to take place in is revealed.

    Photo Gallery
    A total of 28 color production stills are included in this photo gallery, which is divided into two sections: “The Rock: Special Photo Shoot” and “On Set”.

    Theatrical Trailer
    The two-minute theatrical trailer for Walking Tall is included.

    Sneak Peek at Species III[/i]
    This promotional featurette, which runs for 5 minutes, offers a brief overview of the direct-to-DVD flick’s storyline, via interviews with the cast, behind-the-scenes footage, and brief clips from the film.

    Promotional Materials
    The disc kicks off with a trailer for Soul Plane on DVD and a teaser trailer for the straight-to-video Species III. There is also a section in the bonus features entitled “Other Great MGM Releases” that contains:
    --- an “MGM Means Great Movies” Promo
    --- a trailer for Bulletproof Monk
    --- a trailer for Dark Blue
    --- a trailer for Out of Time
    --- a trailer for Men of Action
    --- a TV spot for Everything or Nothing


    (on a five-point scale)
    Film: [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Video: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Audio: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Extras: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Overall: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Sadly, after the unexpectedly groovy The Rundown, I think Walking Tall pushes The Rock backward a step or two. I do have to say I like that his acting ability still appears to be improving, but the final product was far too illogical and superficial for it to matter much. The bottom line is that for me, this was a really disappointing, clumsy action vehicle that showed very little heart despite being inspired by a real-life story that is truly inspirational.

    Now, I cannot tell you that this DVD is not well done, as the transfer is excellent, the soundtrack is aggressive and engaging, and though fairly brief, and most of the extras are fine as well (although a little more history on Buford Pusser would have been nice). That being said, I cannot recommend this movie to all but the most devoted fans of the Brahma Bull, because this weak re-imagining of Walking Tall might just as well have been titled “Limping Along”!

    Stay tuned…
  2. john mcfadden

    john mcfadden Stunt Coordinator

    Aug 11, 2003
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    Johnny Knoxville is in this movie too you know ....[​IMG]
  3. Mark Cappelletty

    Mark Cappelletty Cinematographer

    Jun 6, 1999
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    It really chaps my hide that this gets a full-blown SE, while the crummy Rhino DVD of the original is a full-frame, horribly-compressed nightmare, with boom mikes dangling into frame and nary a special feature whatsoever. May the spirit of Buford Pusser come down hard on the producers of this misbegotten venture.
  4. Mike~Sileck

    Mike~Sileck Supporting Actor

    Feb 28, 2004
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    Thanks for the review. Personally I loved the movie, and so your film rating doesn't matter much to me. Very happy to see high video and audio ratings though! Def. a purchase for me, thanks again!

  5. Ken Chui

    Ken Chui Supporting Actor

    Jun 20, 2003
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    Nice review.

    My crystal ball tells me that this will be in the 2 for $15 section of a Circuit City flyer in a few months. [​IMG]
  6. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

    Jul 19, 2003
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    I like the improvements the Rock has made as an actor, I hope he can sustain a career. As for this movie, it seems like they made a 110-120 minute film, then cut out all of the story, character development, turning this into the mess that it became.

    I remember reading somethingfrom an interview with Rock where he said they set out to make an R rated film, and that is what was shot, but the studio wanted PG-13, so it got cut up.... [​IMG] [​IMG]
  7. Paul Hillenbrand

    Paul Hillenbrand Screenwriter

    Aug 16, 1998
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:
    Paul Hillenbrand
    Mike wrote:
    This goes for me also. It was a very fresh and entertaining movie.

  8. AlanZ

    AlanZ Screenwriter

    Sep 15, 2002
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    It may have been structurally weak, but I also found it to be a very entertaining film.....Johnny Knoxville had his moments, too [​IMG]
  9. Steve K.H.

    Steve K.H. Supporting Actor

    Jan 11, 2002
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    How did this film compare to the original Walking Tall? If it is similar, I would consider this worth a rental.
  10. Jay Sylvester

    Jay Sylvester Supporting Actor

    Jan 27, 2002
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    This is a guilty pleasure for me. I'd gotten sick of all the endless action flicks with 2 hours of explosion after explosion, and was happy to sit down in the theater for a little over an hour and enjoy some shameless skull-thumping.

    Perhaps as an extended R cut with character-driven scenes added back in it could be taken more seriously, but as a popcorn flick, it delivers just fine.

    I'll pick it up if the price is right [​IMG]
  11. Paul Hillenbrand

    Paul Hillenbrand Screenwriter

    Aug 16, 1998
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:
    Paul Hillenbrand
    Post # 7:

    Thought I'd resurrect this thread, as the "Walking Tall" DVD is released tomorrow 9/28/04. This one, I will buy.

  12. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?

    Dec 1, 1999
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    Disney World and Universal Florida
    Real Name:
    Tony D.
    i didnt think it was fresh, nothing new here.
    and as jason said extremely well, highly implausible (actually he said preposterous)
    for all this to happen so quickly.
    especially the "trial".

    and even though the run time is 86 minutes the actual movie was over at 1 h. 12 m. according to the time display on my dvd player.
    that is ridiculously short for anything that isnt a children's animated feature.

    ilike the rock, Rundown was extremely entertaining.
    hope his next one is a full movie.
  13. James W. Johnson

    James W. Johnson Screenwriter

    May 26, 2001
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    I like to see a good ass whooping and I like the Rock , for me this was a must buy.
  14. Jeff Adams

    Jeff Adams Screenwriter

    Dec 13, 1999
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    I just watched this last night and absolutely loved it! What I absolutely did not like is how short it was and how it felt that there were whole sections just cut out of the film.

    I totally agree with that statement. This movie has a ton of potential and an R rated directors cut with a run time of 110 minutes would be great. Does anyone know if there is going to be a directors cut?

    I really want to buy this movie but if there is going to be a better version of it 6 months from now I can hold off.

    But once again, the film in it's current form is very entertaining and a movie that I enjoyed very much.
    It was nice to see some good old fashion action sequences without all the BS cgi and special effects. The shootouts were awesome!

    Also as far as the audio and video of the dvd. Top notch! I don't know why it is hard for people to give 5 stars these days but I can.
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
  15. Rick Guynn

    Rick Guynn Second Unit

    Mar 23, 1999
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    I completely agree with your review. I enjoyed The Rundown quite a bit. I just felt kinda bleh after sitting through this. Not even the amount of skin being displayed by Ashley Scott was enough to save it for me.


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