You don't exactly expect brilliance from a remake of a '70s action thriller, especially when the remake stars a professional wrestler. But "Walking Tall" still manages to exceed any and all expectations regarding its dumbness.
That might have been acceptable and you might have been able to write it off as being strictly Big Dumb Fun were it not for a real streak of nastiness that hangs over the movie like a dark cloud. In fact, exactly how a film this mean-spirited and brutal manages to get a PG-13 rating is anyone's guess.
However, to their credit, at least the filmmakers and studio had the good taste and common sense to say that the movie is "inspired by a true story," rather than trying to claim that it's actually based on the experiences of the late Tennessee Sheriff Buford T. Pusser. This version bears so little resemblance to his real-life story that even the character's name is changed, to the more nondescript-sounding Chris Vaughn.
Played by WWE star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Chris is a former U.S. Army Special Forces sergeant who's returned to his Northwest hometown, hoping to find himself some peace. What he finds instead is a community changed by "progress." The old lumber mill is closed, and the town is dominated by a new casino, which also does a brisk drug trade.
The man responsible for all of this is Chris' old nemesis, Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough), who tells him to turn a blind eye, and even offers him a job to keep him quiet.
Even Chris' own family is begging him to leave matters up to police or just leave well enough alone. But after a couple of close calls leave both Chris and his nephew (Khleo Thomas) hospitalized, he's had enough. And he's not above breaking the law to prove his point.
To be fair, Johnson does have an ingratiating presence. Unfortunately, the script doesn't allow him to cut loose. All this role requires is that he speak softly and literally carry a big stick.
Instead, most of the supposedly comic moments are left up to Johnny Knoxville, who plays Chris' best friend. The former "Jackass" star is best left in small doses, but needless to say, he's an almost constant presence here.
"Walking Tall" is rated PG-13 for scenes of action violence (including gunplay, fisticuffs, brawling and explosive mayhem), scattered use of strong profanity (including one usage of the so-called "R-rated" curse word), drug content, lewd dancing, brief gore and some brief sexual contact. Running time: 78 minutes.