After the disappointing Welcome To The Jungle, one-time wrestler The Rock lives up to his 'new Arnie' tag with this slim but entertaining action romp. Loosely based on a series of 70s 'hixploitation' movies about a real-life vigilante sheriff, Walking Tall casts its muscular star as a retired US commando forced to reclaim his hometown from the dope-dealing scum who have taken over in his absence. Although morally dubious and unpleasantly brutal, Kevin Bray's film is a decent enough showcase for its leading man's low-key charm and bone-crunching machismo.
Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but in Hollywood it couldn't be hotter. With Kill Bill still in cinemas and Man On Fire and The Punisher on the way, Tinseltown can't get enough of implacable avengers seeking bloody satisfaction. For former soldier Chris Vaughn, though, the motivation is not a bullet in the head but a savage beating that leaves him hospitalised. And his response is not to reach for the nearest sword but to run for sheriff and bring his tormentors to justice.
Admittedly it's a fairly rough justice that sees him destroy property, plant evidence, and abuse civil liberties, all the while wielding a huge wooden club. But because Chris wears a pointy badge, respects his mixed-race parents, and acts as surrogate father to his wayward nephew (Khleo Thomas), we're encouraged to overlook the fact that his strong-arm tactics are virtually indistinguishable from those used by the slick, casino-owning villain (Neal McDonough).
"THE ROCK IS WATCHABLE EVEN WHEN NOT BUSTING HEADS"
That we can has little to do with any subtleties in Bray's pedestrian direction, and everything to do with The Rock, a square-jawed beefcake who remains watchable even when he's not busting heads. Seeing him cracking wise with Johnny Knoxville's comic relief, or romancing pole-dancer Ashley Scott, it's easy to believe he has a future beyond such generic multiplex fodder.