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Chris Vaughn is a former Army Special Forces sergeant who has returned to his small town in Washington State hoping for nothing more than to be close to his family and to work at the local lumber mill. He’s in for a rude surprise. His old high school rival, Jay Hamilton, has inherited the mill and shut it down so that desperate residents will feel more inclined to try to strike it rich at his casino. Not satisfied merely to rip off his fellow townsfolk, Hamilton also runs a crystal meth operation out of the casino.
The once idyllic town is now full of XXX theaters, seedy pawn shops and other underbelly businesses that always seem to follow drugs and gambling. Distressed, Vaughn talks to his erstwhile friend about what he’s doing to the town. For his effort, he’s beaten up and sliced open, and the crooked sheriff will do nothing about it.
Determined to clean up the corruption, Vaughn runs for sheriff and wins. He then augments Teddy Roosevelt’s advice: walk softly and carry a big stick.
Vaughn’s “big stick” is actually a fencepost.
While not stated explicitly, Walking Tall shows the bad consequences, both personal and societal, that always accompany gambling. The importance of impartial justice is emphasized, but again, indirectly. Chris and Ray display great courage in defending Chris’ family. Chris shows integrity by turning down a multi-hundred dollar bribe.
Ray calls his beat-up van “the love machine.” A man warns Chris that most people leave the casino so poor, they have to sell their bodies for bus fare. Many scantily clad dancers and waitresses fill the place.
Chris is “treated” by his friends to a free session in a peep show. The stripper never completely removes her clothes, but audiences see her in extremely skimpy panties and bra. (The camera lingers on body parts.) During the striptease, the ‘70s song “Fire” plays, complete with suggestive lyrics.
Chris’ girlfriend, Deni, is fond of low-cut blouses, and she's seen in her bra. Chris and Deni kiss passionately, and it’s implied that they have sex—in the sheriff’s office, no less. Jokes are traded about body-cavity searches and genitals.
Big strong man wields big strong fencepost. Need I say more? Unfortunately, yes. After finding out his nephew OD’d on crystal meth sold through the casino, Chris gets his shotgun and heads there to do some damage. Upon arriving, though, he ditches the gun and pulls a fencepost from the back of his pickup truck. He then sets about smashing up the joint, and when Hamilton’s goons came after him with shotguns, he smashes them up, too. (We see explicit footage of one man’s arm being broken.) They eventually overwhelm him using a cattle prod, hold him down, punch him out and slice him with a box cutter (the cut isn't seen).
Elsewhere, Chris smashes out the taillights on a car. Two men destroy a tricked-out pickup truck with a large saw. Another pickup truck is bombed. Men attack the sheriff’s office with machine-guns, shooting the place to pieces. (As in most movies, the bad guys are terrible shots, though, even with fully automatic weapons.) Chris kills all three with a shotgun.
Men are hit, stabbed, pistol-whipped, attacked with an ax and kicked in the crotch. Chris is hurled from a window.
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word and two s-words. A dozen or so milder profanities and crudities. God’s name is used as an interjection once.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Chris turns down a beer, but another man drinks one as they talk. A dirty baby is left in her stroller on a sidewalk while her mother buys drugs in the alley. Several other drug deals are seen in progress. A man drives away in his car with an open beer in his hand. Teens smoke marijuana in the bleachers. There are many scenes of people drinking beer or mixed drinks in the casino. Both Chris and Deni smoke. A fight takes place in a meth lab.
Other Negative Elements
Chris’ nephew mouths off to his mom. Chris deputizes Ray and gives him a shotgun, even though Ray is a convicted felon. A man steals flowers from one hospital room to give to the patient in another.
This vile—and dangerous—movie glorifies vigilantism and lawlessness. A jury acquits Chris even though he is clearly guilty of the crime he’s charged with, all because he had “a good reason” to bust heads. Chris, as sheriff, is basically a lawbreaker himself. Numerous times he gratuitously destroys the bad guys’ property, and the audience is intended to cheer along. (Several people in the showing I attended did just that.) The idea that the law applies to everyone gets lost in a thicket of rationalizations and “fun” violence.
Walking Tall's unrealistic glorification of violence reaches such a fever pitch that it makes a Rambo movie look like Bambi. Just think what would happen to a man’s face if he was hit full force with a fencepost. If he wasn’t killed outright, he’d certainly lose all his teeth and have a broken nose. In the movie, he merely gets a bloody nose. Other men are hit in the back and stomach with the fencepost, and they get up showing nary a hint of pain. One man is clubbed with great force in the back of the head. Instead of a caved-in skull, he’s only knocked out.
Based loosely (very loosely) on the true story of rural Tennessee Sheriff Buford Pusser, this remake uses two-dimensional caricatures to substitute for the more nuanced characters in the 1973 version that starred Joe Don Baker, a film that had its own problems with vigilantism and cartoon violence. Teens who avidly follow professional wrestling will flock to watch The Rock. And in doing so they'll get their heads crammed full of "cool" new ways to hurt others—and themselves.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Chris Vaughn; Neal McDonough as Jay Hamilton; Johnny Knoxville as Ray Templeton; Ashley Scott as Deni; John Beasley as Chris Vaughn Sr.; Khleo Thomas as Pete; Michael Bowen as Sheriff Watson
Kevin Bray ( )