I am a fan of action films, and in particular of larger than life actors in these roles. For instance I am a huge Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis fan, there’s something about these huge characters that sits so well with films like Walking Tall.
For The Rock, who I’ve grown to like as much as the names above, this film was a bit of a test. He came from the wrestling world and went straight into the action films playing the Scorpion King and starring in films such as Welcome to the Jungle. So playing a real world character based on a true life story meant he had to prove his acting skills and show much more restraint. This really was more about Dwayne Johnson and less about his wrestling persona.
What’s surprising about this is that he managed to both prove he can act and also show plenty of restraint, and delivered a film that has quite a bit to say as well as delivering a good entertaining story. I’m not ashamed to say that this film made me like Rock as an actor.
What was perhaps most surprising is how good Rock’s acting is. Genuinely, I’m not joking. He appears natural and convincing in the role, and when he’s pitched against the excellent and criminally underused Neal McDonough, he holds his own.
He has a great onscreen presence that’s not too overpowering for his character, his lines are delivered with a reality and believability, and he convinced me that he can be more than just an action star. What he now needs to do is more of the same.
There’s another acting surprise here, Johnny Knoxsville. He’s a little awkward in some scenes, but he does prove that he’s a competent actor and with some work he could leave behind his jackass persona and become find a real career for himself.
Together these three actors give the film a strong leading line up, and with both Rock and McDonough facing off against each other, we get a strong sense of tension between the two. There are a few scenes between them which are played very well, nice and friendly on the surface but with an underlying unease and distrust.
The story is based on real events, where a man took to cleaning up his home town all on his own. Wikipedia has a more details story about Sheriff Buford Pusser who was an ex-Marine turned wrestler, turned family man. He became the youngest serving Sheriff in the history of Tennessee and waged a campaign to clean up McNairy County from organised crime, which at the time was being run by the Dixie Mafia. Pusser's wife was murdered during an attempt on his own life made by the Mafia, and some time later he was eventually killed in a car crash that has always been alleged to have been murder.
Although there are many liberties taken with the story, it does reflect the motives and some of the acts of a man who believed he should fight for what he believed in, and what he believed in was decent and true. So it came as a surprise that this film, which itself is a remake of Walking Tall from 1973, should feature The Rock as that Sheriff.
Rock plays a man returning from active duty to his home town. When he gets there he struggles with what he sees. Gambling, drugs and crime have taken over and it isn’t the same safe place in which to live.
He stands up and tries to right a few wrongs but the local gambling king, played by McDonough, takes him aside and has his guys beat him to near death.
Once he recovers he’s resolute. He’s going to clean up the corruption in the town and the first place he’s going to start is with the Sheriff, who is in the pocket of McDonough’s character.
There are some great scenes in the story and the character progression is good. Visually the film is quite strong and it doesn't tie itself to standard fare. It also doesn't tie itself too strongly to a single genre, not solely action or thriller, there is a sense of a moralistic tale amongst the posturing and fighting for one's beliefs.
The film opens well, with good use of the camera in sweeping, travelling movements, and continues on with strong framing. The action and fight sequences are exciting and well choreographed, relying more on reality and showing some quite hard moments. These scenes show off the editing of the film as well as the overall style.
Presented: DD 5.1
The audio is good throughout and particularly strong in the action and fight sequences.
Presented: 2.35:1 Anamorphic
A good picture shows strong natural colours and captures the action well. The action during the attack on the Sheriff’s office is filmed well and shows off the editing and style.
Presented: Audio Commentary with Rock, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes
The Rock, or rather Dwayne Johnson, gives an entertaining commentary. Not only is he rather funny but he gives some great insights into the film and behind the scenes, and he talks throughout the entire film, something a lot of audio commentaries fail to do.
The Outtakes are amusing, and the Deleted Scenes offer an interesting alternate ending. However it is best to head for the Special Edition which features a second commentary by the Director. Unfortunately this rental version did not.
Overall I’d recommend this film for a good evening’s entertainment, and I promise you that you’ll be surprised by Rock’s performance, and if not then there’s McDonough to watch.
I think that this is perhaps the Rock's best performance to date, and it is a shame that he hasn't managed to keep this up. It also shows once again that McDonough is a strong actor with great on screen presence that just doesn't see enough decent roles.
However there could have been some more on this DVD offering, why not a short documentary looking at the real story and Sheriff that the film was based on? With the story being dramatic with a morally strong message and way more intellectual than other Rock films, I would have thought that it would have attracted far more attention than it did. It certainly is the Rock's best performance so far, so why hasn't more been made of it?