Walking Tall Review

Dwayne Johnson knows how to swing his wood… err, wait. That probably didn’t come out right. He carries a big stick? No, no, that doesn’t sound right either. Wait, how about The Rock likes stuffing his board into other guy’s faces?

Actually, just forget all of it. This is getting worse before it is getting better. The point of all this teenage innuendo is that this remake of Walking Tall could not have been cast better. In fact, it probably never would have happened without the former pro wrestling star. Fond of swinging metal chairs, Johnson takes his in-ring skills and puts them to use on the big screen, hilariously slamming casino guards through tables, smashing slot machines, and pulling off the Schwarzenegger (dodging thousands of bullets, only to fire once to kill his enemies).

Walking Tall is absurdly short. Not counting the large font, slow-moving 12-minute credits, this is a 74-minute film. Take out the opening credits, which serve as minimal establishing shots of the small town, you can breeze through this actioner in about 68-minutes.

Maybe it was because director Kevin Bray was used to directing music videos at the time, or the producers realized the target audience did not have the attention span to sit through a generic revenge story for any longer. Regardless, the decision was smart, creating a film that is the definition of that review cliché, “a roller coaster ride.” The audience slowly moves up the big hill while Johnson reunites with his family, hits the peak when he is tortured by goons, and hits the big drop when he snaps, taking inanimate objects and people down with him.

After seeing the entire police station utterly wiped out by gunfire, Walking Tall’s finale may not carry the punch one expects. Johnson and Neal McDonough battle it out in a forested area, delivering a fairly kinetic brawl, but one lacking that stupid action movie closing where everything explodes. After all this, the casino owned by McDonough is casually closed and everyone moves on with their lives. Not a very pro wrestling way to go out.

Movie ★★★☆☆ 

It is a bit of a surprise to see a disc released in mid-2009 utilizing an MPEG-2 encode, so it is a wonder how long this one sat on the corporate slate before being released. While some of the initial images are decent, it soon becomes apparent (the first long shot of the house) that things are not as they seem. Edge enhancement has been applied, and for a specific reason: to sharpen the artificially smooth image in an attempt to hide the glaring use of DNR.

There are brief moments of positive image quality, such as the 41:11 mark, where the sweat and facial detail of Dwayne Johnson is clearly evident. Sporadic facial close-ups occasionally offer what Blu-ray is capable of. The rest of the film? Forget it. Murky exterior shots muddy all of the photography, smearing is a constant battle, and the encode doesn’t help either. What might initially appear to be heavy grain is actually a collection of thick compression blocks, significant when Johnson comes back home at night and enters his room.

While black crush is minimal, colors fine, and the contrast bright, they are not enough to make up for other problems beyond the DNR and EE applications. Print damage is miniscule, but if you are going to falsely “clean” the image, you might as well pick up the specks and dirt at the same time. Flickering and aliasing become a bother at times, a real distraction as Johnson and friends first enter the casino parking lot.

Video ★★☆☆☆ 

Despite a disappointing LFE push, this DTS-HD effort does offer some moments to take note of. Ambiance is strong throughout. Outside the home, some light bird chirps are evident as Johnson and Ashley Scott walk down the driveway. The casino is lively, with music, chatter, and cheers of joy from winning players split wide in the front and rear channels. Dialogue sits well in the mix.

When the action kicks up, aggressive rears keep pace with the brawling, and the poor saps being tossed to the ground hit with a satisfying thud. The gunfire assault on the police station is undoubtedly the high point, with bullets, glass, stray paper, and debris kicked up in all channels. Oddly, the explosion of a truck barely registers, and fidelity makes it sound a bit hollow, especially compared to some of the music earlier like the football game.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

The odd thing about the extras is that on the Blu-ray itself, there are no extras besides trailers. Instead, they all sit on the DVD that is included, which means the two commentaries, basic promotional making-of stuff, dated trailers, and bloopers reside on the previous format. So, some credit is due for including the DVD, but that is immediately stripped away when you realize you need to listen to the commentaries on the DVD, not the Blu-ray you paid for.

Extras ★★☆☆☆ 

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