WALKING TALL (2004)

Walking Tall is one of my childhood favorites. I watched it innumerable times since my childhood and everytime it gave me the same kind of rush that it gave me when I watched it for the first time. This is one simplistic film with a plot that though is linear and has very little in terms of twists and turns but is highly affecting and uproariously engaging.

Chris Vaughn (Dwayne Johnson) comes back to his home town after serving years in the military to find out that the mill that his father had been working for when he left has been closed down and now the town is over run by drug peddlers and is overseen by a ruthless casino owner who used to be his friend. The casino also seems to be the only viable source of business in a town that is knee deep in filth.

Soon Vaughn finds himself in logerhorns with the owner of the casino when he catches a dealer cheating at the blackjack and is eventually brutalized for his actions. As he recovers from grievous injuries, he is forced to challenge the casino again when his teenage nephew suffers a drug overdose from drugs that he brought from the casino. What happens next is a whirlwind adventure of one man’s effort to take on a whole town full of baddies and make right right.

Walking Tall is a film that heavily depends on Dwayne Johnson’s charisma to pull through some of the most outrageous scenes that would put many of the most over the top Hindi films to shame. The sequence in the court where Vaughn gets acquitted inspite of not having a single shred of evidence to back his claims is one of the best examples of what I just mentioned.

“The Rock” as Johnson was known back then smoothly operates through a narrative that not only needs his charm but also his physicality. The action sequences are organic. I just love the sequence where The Rock single handedly takes down the staff of the whole casino using nothing but a single piece of cedar. It was a surreal piece of action that is done so very well that you can watch it again and again and still never get bored of it.

Ditto can be said about the final action sequence wherein The Rock has to hold fort against a cavalry of baddies who are laced with automatic weapons. That sequence felt strangely authentic even though you can see clearly how outrageously cliché and almost super heroic it was. It is The Rock’s charm that makes these sequences even more worthwhile.

The courtroom sequence is put up there to show the invincibility of the man who was challenged in the initial sequences when he was overpowered and brutally assaulted by the antagonists. Statements like “he broke both bones with a single hit”, “he is highly trained and literally took over the place” brings smiles and cheer on every face. Even the jury look overwhelmed by the testimonials of the guards of the casino.

The film has it’s heart in the right place. We have all had some problem some time or the other with people who have been menacing and nearly too strong for us to be able to deal with. Walking Tall taps into those feelings and gives us some very well envisioned retribution to such memories. Even though it is a movie, but it successfully transports us into the time and skin of Vaughn which makes us feel that we are living a dream that we would love to in our own way.

That is what I believe is at the core of this film and it is also what makes it so very likeable. Walking Tall was a big hit with my generation here in India. It was a bigger hit here than it was in the US and I feel that’s because of the facts I mentioned above. The Rock’s charm as an almost indestructible hero who is as righteous as he is powerful is all too well known to us being brought up on standard staple of Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Sunny Deol and Hritik Roshan films. We are a country of extremes and Walking Tall suits right in there somewhere with us.

It provides the right escapist entertainment and whistle-worthy moments that most of the film goers of this country look for when they get into that dark theater looking to escape from their daily drudgery. Superb performances, great action and a charming protagonist makes this film an instant hit and a must watch.

 

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