July 16, 2005
Kevin Bray, ,
Starring: The Rock, Neal McDonough, Johnny Knoxville, John Beasley, Barbara Tarbuck, Kristen Wilson, Khleo Thomas, Ashley Scott, Michael Bowen, Mike Dopud, Aaron Douglas, Mark Houghton, Ryan Robbins, Michael Soltis, ,
Now before I start, don’t think I’m one of those people who just wants to bash the Rock; analy spouting how he has no part in film and should have stuck to his spandex wearing, ring prancing antics. Quite the opposite in fact, I’m a big fan of Rock’s, and firmly believe he can, and will, be the next big action star now that the Austrian Oak has put down roots in the Governor’s office in California. He just needs to find that defining role, the role that breaks him away from his in-ring past and firmly establishes him as the icon he can become.
Walking Tall is not it.
So much so that it may have actually set him back. I heavily criticised Welcome to the Jungle, or Hellbound, or Helldorado, or whatever the hell you want to call it – for being nothing more than a feature length A-Team episode. Well, at least that was feature length. Your average low budget action movie comes in at under ninety minutes. The average Seagal barely makes eighty minutes. Walking Tall just scraped over the seventy minute mark. The A-Team two-parters had more plot development, and for that matter more action.
This is disappointing, as the film does have a measured, patient start. The opening has echoes of First Blood where Rock comes into town, carrying his army bag and stirring up a little mistrust from the local sheriff. Sadly, there the similarity ends.
Actually, that’s not strictly true. Although the whole film is bright, comic action, there is a moment of sheer violence about twenty minutes in. This scene doesn’t fit with the rest of the film, and comes as something of a shock.
After this disturbing moment, the film returns to form; paper thin, cheesy characters, clichéd hard man dialogue and slapstick action sequences. Little time is given to fleshing out any characters, rather the odd character trait is highlighted in each individual. Rock’s father doesn’t want to pick up a gun again after some incident in the past (guess what happens at the end?), Rock’s nephew is a rebel who takes drugs and his former best friend-turned rival is running a casino and trafficking drugs. It’s classic A-Team I tell you.
The general plot follows Rock returning home from the Special Forces to find the old mill closed and the small town he once knew has become a den of vice. Drugs and porn are rife, and his old high school sweetheart is a private dancer. When Rock finds the local casino is bent he tries to do something about it, but is violently assaulted and left for dead. With the local sheriff owned by the casino owner (A-Team again) Rock decides to run for sheriff.
Within seconds of that decision, he’s sheriff. Now, I’m sure there was a reason for cutting out a whole section of the plot, but I don’t know what it was. As this is based on a true story, surely the act of Rock running for sheriff would have been a major act? Obviously they feared the film would drag on past the seventy five minute mark and wanted to keep it short and sweet. Eh?
The rest of the film is self explanatory, Rock cleans up town, fights bad guys etc etc… oh yes, his dad uses his gun.
The weakest part of this film is the paper thin characterisation, it’s not just paper thin mind – they didn’t even bother. Rock’s girlfriend seems to be there just to strip off and wear a bra during a gunfight. Johnny Knoxville is around to makes gags and be the staple comedy sidekick. One has to ask, why? Nothing against Knoxville, he’s decent enough in the role, it’s just that considering this film pretends to have a serious undertone; does it really need a comedy sidekick?
All in all this isn’t the worst film ever; it’s just nothing in particular. It masquerades under the guise of a true story yet has nothing really to tell. I won’t lament too long on Rock’s choices for film, but he really does need to find the right one soon. His WWE fame is only going to carry him so far before he has to stand by his filmic accomplishments. Too many more like this, and it’ll be back to wrestling for Rocky.
So, a film this short should be laden with features then eh? 40 seconds of comedy out-takes and 4 deleted scenes suggest otherwise. The alternate ending is just Rock and Knoxville improving while a crane shot pulls away; hardly shedding new light on the creative process.
The main feature is an 8 minute making of introduced by the Rock, focusing on the fight sequences. It’s energetic enough but really just emphasises how A-Team-like this whole film is.
The DVD is rounded off by two feature commentaries, though you’d want to listen to them is beyond me.
Rock, you could do better.