Walking Tall is ‘Based upon a true story’ in the same way that an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashian’s is ‘based upon real life’.
It might be more accurate to say that Chris Vaughn – the guy on the poster who is said to be walking tall and the man upon whom this film is based – lived a life ‘based upon a movie script’. Think First Blood crossed with Cop Land, ironic given they were both Sylvester Stallone movies and the Rock seems hell bent on becoming the next Schwazenegger…
Local boy Chris Vaughn returns to his small and humble hometown after eight years active duty overseas and doesn’t like what he sees.
It seems to Chris that since his departure the town has gone to heck in a handbasket, the mill that once employed many of locals has closed, and a big sleazy casino has popped up almost in its place.
Coincidentally enough the casino is run by another local boy made good, Jay Hamilton, who we can tell within 37 seconds of his appearance that he will be the ‘bad guy’. That doesn’t stop the smarmy and self assured Jay inviting Chris and his boys to the casino that very first night of Chris’ return for an all expenses paid ‘good time’.
“Hi beloved family! Sorry I haven’t been around for 8 years. You don’t mind if I spend the first night gambling and watching strippers do you? I mean those things are so hard to do anywhere else?”
Regardless of logic Chris, his best mate Ray (Johnny Knoxville) and some faceless hangers on hit the ‘cass’ to blow off some steam. They quickly realise that not only is the casino as straight as a paperclip, but it is a front for drug pushers, prostitution and crooked gaming. In pointing these things out to more than a few individuals Chris finds himself set upon, beaten, tortured and left for dead.
After a long painful rehabilitation Chris emerges to find that the spineless local police force have seen fit to let the entire episode be written off as a case of ‘boys will be boys’. Even shonky Jay informs Chris that he is willing to ‘forgive him’ for his transgression.
Chris’ family tell him to leave well enough alone, and Ray says there is little point in being the bravest dead guy in town, so it seems that’s the end of that.
Then Chris’ nephew overdoses on drugs sold to him at the casino…
Oh is that the eyebrow going up? I think it is.
Chris hits the casino again – literally – and emerges from the chaos to find himself charged with the distinct possibility of jail time. Chris declines the offer of good behavior with a guilty plea and decides he will defend himself. With practically the entire town in the courtroom he argues “Not guilty by reason of they had it comin’…”, going even further to state that if exonerated he will run for Sheriff and clean this town up once and for all.
Cheers all round. In fact a standing ovation from a town that if you believe the film didn’t have a spine until about three minutes ago.
The saying goes ‘walk tall and carry a big stick’, so in lieu of traditional weapons Chris does just that, rocking a heavy lump of knotty pine about the place and making sure everyone knows he’s willing to use it on anyone within 5 feet who isn’t smart enough to carry a shooty thing of their own.
For his part Ray the big bad casino owner and all around nasty guy (he smokes!) isn’t willing to clean up his act. Not after years of having the cops in his pocket and things going his way.
And this is where the film veers dangerously away from the ‘based upon true events’ descriptor.
The finale has an awful lotta bullets and a surprising number of bodies, as Chris, his stripper girlfriend and Jay (now a deputy of course) set to defending the honour of this once proud town from the tyranny of lazy cinema.
Walking Tall is instantly forgettable and wafer thin, running all of 85 minutes with over 12 of those as credits – I know. I timed it! It is undeniable that The Rock has charisma, geez I’ve said that in almost every review of his films, but aside from The Scorpion King he is yet to find a vehicle that utilises his talents, though both Doom and Scorpion King could have if they were smarter.
Alas this is just another wasted and inappropriately monikored opportunity, for wasting The Rock yet again, Walking Tall should hang its head in shame.
Final Rating – 6 / 10. Walking Tall? More like Stumbling Along.