Hollywood hues
Avoidable violence
Ervell E. Menezes

Ashley Scott and Chris Vaughn in Walking Tall
Ashley Scott and Chris Vaughn in Walking Tall 

Walking Tall is a remake of the 1973 film about a sheriff who counters violence with violence, bypassing everyday laws. It was among the first vigilante films with Joe Dan Baker playing the lead role. And one critic called it "a terrifying image of Nixon’s silent majority at work."

Thirty years later they decided to remake it. Could President George Bush’s illegal war in Iraq be the provocation? Maybe because fighting terrorism is a case of the remedy being worse than the disease. Like the parent film which had the support of the righteous to become a cult film the new Walking Tall also deals with a hopeless situation. But it is as violent as the parent film.

Chris Vaughn (The Rock) is a Vietnam-returned soldier (not Sheriff Pusser as in the parent film) who finds his hamlet of Ferguson, Washington, completely changed. The old mill where his dad worked has been converted into a casino and his high school rival Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough) has become the new robber baron. The casino is also the hub of drugs, vice and crime.

All this is too much for Chris to tolerate. So he sets about trying to change it. In this film they call Chris’ angst, post-dramatic stress. But we know the string of films that came out of Hollywood under the genre "post-Vietnam Syndrome." It doesn’t take time for Chris to become sheriff and then appoint his pal Ray Templeton (Johnny Knoxville) as deputy. His high-school girlfriend Deni (Ashley Scott) is now a stripper at the casino and this only further enrages him.

So it is attack, attack, attack or tora, tora, tora, as the Japanese would call it. But there is little credibility and far too much violence. The saving grace is that it is only 87 minutes long and director Kevin Bray, who is said to have been a fan of the first film, goes to town with the action.

A huge stick fashioned from a lumber mill pine is Chris’s weapon. Maybe this is to highlight the locale in Washington state which abounds in "sunshine and pine trees." The earlier film was set in a Southern state. Of course the greenery is a welcome change but the violence is just the same. What’s more the characters and jet black and show-white. And when all is said and the climax is both abrupt and tame. As though director Bray ended it when he ran out of raw stock.