Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Walking Tall

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

WALKING TALL

1/10

US 2004 : Kevin BRAY : 86 mins

With the USA governed by arguably the most reactionary regime in its history, it’s perhaps not surprising – but nonetheless depressing – that Hollywood would attempt to cash in by disinterring 1973’s Walking Tall. Showcasing what was one critic called “the terrifying voice of Nixon’s silent majority,” the moneymaking original was very loosely inspired by lawman Buford Hayse Pusser, a six-foot-six ex-wrestler (‘Buford the Bull‘) who ‘cleaned up’ his Tennessee patch using a huge wooden club. The Rock would seem like neat casting for this ‘update’ – not least because the charismatic six-foot-four WWF hunk once grappled as ‘The Brahma Bull.’

But the four credited scriptwriters* have produced a screenplay which bears only passing resemblance to the 1973 film, and virtually none to the real-life Pusser: all that’s retained is the idea of the club-wielding Sheriff. The Rock plays Chris Vaughn, an ex-soldier returning to his Washington-state hometown after eight years away to find the lumber-mill shut down. Hundreds of workers – including Chris’s ageing dad (John Beasley) – have been thrown onto the scrap-heap, with predictably disastrous consequences for the community. The only person thriving seems to be Jay (Neal McDonough), who operates a garish downtown casino. When Chris discovers the casino is cheating its desperate punters, he’s badly beaten by Jay’s goons. But you can’t keep a good man down for long…

Walking Tall is insultingly crude and naive on every level: economic, political, social, legal, even racial – the visibly-Samoan Chris is somehow the son of a white mother and an African-American father. This is a passing gripe, however. It’s grotesque to see very real problems (juvenile delinquency, drug-taking, etc.) ‘dealt with’ in the format of such a thick-ear action movie. And Walking Tall doesn’t even deliver on that basic front: the violence is irresponsibly cartoonish, tediously padding out an 86-minute running-time that includes an indefensible 12 minutes of end-credits. If this wasn’t bad enough, the moneybags at MGM have the nerve to present a story about an American town ruined by lack of work and money – every frame of which was shot over the border in British Columbia, to cut costs.

28th June, 2004
(seen 3rd June : Vue, Leicester : press show – Cinema Days event)

* David Klass, Channing Gibson, David Levien, Brian Koppelman, their work based on Mort Briskin’s original screenplay.

For other films rated 1/10 & 2/10 check out our Diorama of Dishonour

by Neil Young