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Monday, April 9, 2012

WALKING TALL: LONE JUSTICE --movie review by porfle

(Note: this review originally appeared online in 2007.)

Back in the 70s, there was this no-nonsense Tennessee lawman named Buford Pusser who got fed up with the rampant crime and corruption in his home of McNairy County and vowed to take decisive action against it, despite the cost--which eventually included his wife being killed and his jaw being shot off. Hollywood made a hit movie out of the story called WALKING TALL, which starred Joe Don Baker as Sheriff Pusser. Bo Svenson took over the role in two follow-ups, PART 2: WALKING TALL and FINAL CHAPTER: WALKING TALL, and in '04 the original movie was remade starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

Since MGM knows a good property when they own it, they've decided to keep making WALKING TALL sequels regardless of the fact that they're no longer about a guy named Buford Pusser. Pusser's daughter Dwana isn't too happy about this, but Kevin Sorbo has to be thrilled since it's giving him something to do now that he isn't "Hercules" anymore. 2007 has already seen WALKING TALL:THE PAYBACK, and now we get the further adventures of Sorbo as some guy named "Nick Prescott" in WALKING TALL: LONE JUSTICE (2007).

To me, Sorbo is miscast as a hard-ass lone justice type of action hero--he's just too loose and easygoing, not exactly cut from the same material as Joe Don Baker, Bo Svenson, or The Rock. Most of the time he seems as though he'd rather be in something lighter, with more chances to toss off mildly witty lines and look bemused, and when he has to be really serious he's not all that convincing.

But the story has to give his character something to become really righteously vengeful about, of course, so it turns out his girlfriend Katie (Yvette Nipar) is a federal agent whose testimony is about to put a really bad drug kingpin named Perez (Rodrigo De La Rosa) behind bars. As you might guess, she and the other witnesses are brutally gunned down by Perez' goons, so Nick turns into a one-man killing machine and goes out looking for some "lone justice", WALKING TALL-style.

Or not. Actually, he rescues the surviving witness from another attempted hit and takes her to his mom's house in his tiny hometown in Texas to hole up and wait for the bad guy's trial to resume. So instead of going out looking for the bad guys, the bad guys come to him. And he isn't quite "lone"--there's two local lawmen and a few feds helping him out. It's not exactly the brand of heroic exploits that made Buford Pusser famous. So how does this even qualify as a "Walking Tall" movie as opposed to your usual grade-B action flick? I don't know.

Most of the cast are pretty good. Yvette Nipar is likable as Kate, and 15-year-old Haley Ramm (young Jean Grey in X-MEN: THE LAST STAND) gives possibly the best performance of the movie as Kate's daughter, Samantha, who naturally ends up in the clutches of a bad guy with a gun to her head as he growls at Nick to "drop the gun!" (In an early scene, Sam's mother tells her that Nick will be walking her to school in the morning, and she quips, "Great...I'll be on a milk carton by noon.") One of the other feds looks sorta like a grown-up "Beaver" Cleaver, which is always fun. And this movie has some pretty good bad guys in it, especially De La Rosa as "Perez." He plays the part with an understated menace that lends realism to the character except for the times when the script forces him to act like the standard bugged-out villain.

The action starts early with one of the oldest cliches in the book--our hero strolls into a convenience store and finds himself in the middle of a hold-up, in which the spittle-sputtering robbers little realize that they've just stumbled into a "Walking Tall" movie and are about to confront the star of it. It's the sort of thing that happened to Dirty Harry a lot, but instead of pulling out a hand cannon and blasting away, Nick Prescott pops up from behind some shelves, throws a can of whole-kernel corn, and knocks out the clerk. Then he takes out the totally ineffective gunmen with some clumsy moves that would have Chuck Norris either laughing his ass off or setting his TV on fire just by looking at it.

Some of the scenes here and there manage to get pretty good, especially the one in which Nick is trying to hide the gravely-wounded witness as a hit squad stalks the hospital looking for her. There's a thumb-snipping bloody torture sequence later on that should set your nerves on edge. And a confrontation between the good guys and the bad guys in a remote cornfield starts out well, but soon falls victim to what proves to be this movie's ultimate downfall as a whole--the outta control non-stop stylistic freakout of its aptly-named director, Tripp Reed.

The camerawork and editing here are an ADD nightmare--Twitchy-Zoom, Shaky-Cam, speed-up/slow-down and double-image effects, focus fiddling, sequences that appear as though the film were simply chopped up and stuck back together at random and then sprayed with Cheez-Whiz, and every other pointlessly distracting effect you can think of.  If that kind of stuff doesn't really irritate you, great, but if it does, prepare to be really irritated.

The unfortunate thing about WALKING TALL: LONE JUSTICE is that there might actually be a fairly entertaining low-grade shoot-em-up here if you didn't have all that visual confetti flying at you from beginning to end. In the future, director Tripp Reed needs to stop trippin', settle down, and use what talent he seems to have trying to shoot a movie that doesn't fidget all over the place like a speed freak in Sunday School.

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Rolena Patrick said...

I'm a die-hard Kevin Sorbo fan. But, I'm very disappointed that he accepted this role. After watching Walking Tall: Lone Justice, I'm dismayed that he would settle for such a low-class production unworthy of his consideration.

Apparently, the movie offers are few and far between. I mean, the man does have to eat. But, at least he isn't eating the crap that his viewers do by watching this farce. Watching this movie is like eating crap. You don't have to taste it to know you're eating it when you finally do.

The bitter aftertaste of a horrendous movie aside, Sorbo could have demanded more realism. It wouldn't have saved this piece of garbage. But, it would have been more tolerable to watch. That's ninety minutes of my life I'm never getting back.

I just feel sorry for the suckers that paid to watch this trash when it was in the theaters and subsequently released to video. I watched it for free on television via my DVR so that I was able to skip the commercials. Otherwise, it would have been two hours of mind-numbing offal (a synonym for trash), which is an apt description b/c this movie WAS awful (no pun intended).

Porfle Popnecker said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Rolena!