Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. Only Vern could write this review. This is why we love him.
All throughout human history, Man and Woman have faced dangers and struggles which they could not hope to overcome. Even in the modern world, we often find ourselves feeling helpless and inadequate in the face of forces beyond our understanding. There are things we simply cannot control, things we must grimly accept as realities of contemporary living. Hurricanes. Tsunamis. Diseases. Wars. Remakes. Sequels. DTV sequels to remakes. Some of them starring Kevin Sorbo from TV's HERCULES THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS. In this case we are facing WALKING TALL: THE PAYBACK, which fits into the last 3 or 4 categories. But I am here to bring a message of hope. I have seen the WALKING TALL remake sequel. And I believe we will survive, probaly. Nah, we definitely will. It's actually not that bad (probaly not bad enough). The screener calls it an "action-packed sequel to the hit film, Walking Tall," but doesn't specify which hit film Walking Tall. I assume it's supposed to be a sequel to the 2004 remake starring The Rock, but it doesn't matter because this is not about Buford Pusser or even Chris Vaughn, it is a new guy called Nick Prescott. (They just don't make names like Buford Pusser anymore, do they?) It's kind of weird how these things evolve. The original WALKING TALL was loosely based on the real life of Sheriff Buford Pusser of McNairy County, Tennessee. Then he died in a car accident before part 2 was finished, so part 3 was about him making the first WALKING TALL and then dying. The TV series was still about Pusser, but I hear it took place in the '80s, even though he died in '74. So then the remake took another step away from reality. It was about a fictional, completely different guy named Chris Vaughn in modern day Kitsap County, WA. Now the sequel to the remake is about still another fictional guy, this time in Texas. So on the surface none of these movies are connected, but I got a theory. Remember those movies "THE CROW," where it's always different people who die and come back to get revenge? The only connection is that some crow helps them turn into a vengeful ghost who makes everybody uncomfortable by quoting poetry all the time. This is the same kind of thing, the spirit of Walking Tall is passed on from sheriff to sheriff, from small corrupted town to small corrupted town. First it was in Joe Don Baker as Buford Pusser in the original movie. Then it was in Bo Svenson as Buford Pusser in the sequels and the TV series. And Brian Dennehy as Buford Pusser in the TV movie A REAL AMERICAN HERO. And The Rock as Chris Vaughn in WALKING TALL (2004). And now Kevin Sorbo as Nick Prescott in WALKING TALL: THE PAYBACK. How does the spirit get transferred? It's obvious: it's in the stick. All these guys at one point carry some sort of stick or wood product as a weapon. The Rock version even has a whole trees and lumber motif going through it that somebody ought to analyze (oh wait, I already did). THE PAYBACK story starts out with Nick's father, Sheriff Charlie Prescott. (Pusser's pop was a police chief, so this is a tribute.) After investigating the scene of a blown-up gas station, knowing that the corrupt cops who got there before him have covered up some sort of crime, he tries to go to the FBI for help. This is kind of a nice way to start the movie because he's kind of a Buford Pusser type - more by the book, but kind of a chubby redneck type at least. More like Buford than The Rock or Kevin Sorbo. But he's optimistic that he can clean up the town, his son is not. So he gets burned alive and his son has to finish what he started. You got most of the hallmarks of the WALKING TALL series: former soldier (this time special ops) returns to his hometown (this time Boone, Texas), finds it has been overtaken by criminals and the townspeople are too cowardly to stand up to them, a tragic event (this time the burning alive of his father) forces him to take a stand, he becomes sheriff (this time because his dad's friend gives him the badge, simple as that) and then there is violence. You also have another black deputy sidekick, and another tough guy who has a close relationship with his parents. He only carries the stick in one part, but it's pretty badass. He's got a shotgun in one hand, a stick in the other hand as he storms into a private compound. A dude tells him to drop his weapons and he says "What, this one? Or this one?" Then he throws the shotgun to the guy and beats him with the stick. The bad guy is a young asshole with tank tops and tattoos, kind of a Ryan Reynolds/Gosling type (A.J. Buckley who, according to IMDB, played McG in an episode of "Fat Actress"). You know this guy is trouble because after he murders the old sheriff he goes to the funeral and drinks a beer. Completely out of line. Also he burps, but in his defense it is a pretty quiet burp. Could've been worse. This guy and his cop brother somehow control the whole town and are in the process of bullying all the locals into selling their businesses. Some kind of a corrupt land deal for corporate overlords seen later in the movie. In a development reminiscent of the notorious Texas redistricting plan, Prescott convinces the city council members to go into hiding so that the bad guy can't force a quorum to have his brother declared interim sheriff. So you get to hear tough talk about quorums like "If there ain't a quorum you better plan a funeral." Meanwhile, Prescott and a female FBI agent (Yvette Nipar) try to find evidence to bust the whole thing open, but when they can't Prescott goes into full on vigilante mode, even going so far as to kill one of the henchmen/rapists and frame the bad guy for the murder. It's probaly this last part that upset Dwana Pusser, the daughter of the real life Buford Pusser (and character in the original movies). On her websight she says, "I want the fans of Buford Pusser to remember that he stood for truth and justice. These movies simply want to take advantage of one man's fight against injustice. They are not telling a story about truth. They are simply making a action movie." I think for the most part the story is in the same spirit of one man having enough and risking his life to stand up to a corrupt system and a gang of bullies. But Pusser did it by, at worst, stretching the law to ridiculous lengths. Okay, in real life I don't agree with some of the things he did in the movies, because in real life you don't know for sure what evil bastards everybody is like you do in movies. But Buford would smash somebody's car or something. Burn down a bar. He wouldn't hang up a dead body and put fingerprints on a gun. In my opinion (not to be too preachy but) premeditated murder is bad. I believe old Moses had something on that on one of those tablets he brought down. The producers might've changed the movies after Dwana's complaints though. I know the original script was by Joe Halpin (INTO THE SUN starring Steven Seagal, SHADOW MAN starring Steven Seagal, ATTACK FORCE starring Steven Seagal) but the credits just list some guy called Brian Strasmann. Dwana also writes, "I have read the scripts and they are very vulgar. As a Christian woman I am very upset with the direction the movies have taken." But THE PAYBACK did not end up nearly vulgar enough, in my opinion. The violence isn't very graphic, there's maybe one curse word, no nudity at all. There is a gang rape scene to show how bad the villains are, but thankfully it's short and offscreen, not some grueling I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE experience. So I'm not sure what she's talking about. Now, obviously it is important for her to protect the memory of her father, but to most of us Buford Pusser is a movie character and this is an action movie. And vulgarity is usually a good thing in an action movie. It was weird that the Rock version of WALKING TALL was PG-13. The original was so brutal in the way Buford got stabbed in the bar and all that. They had to keep it off screen in the remake. Then they completely left out the tragic twist at the end (like in real life, the criminals retaliated and killed his wife) so if you're familiar with the original it feels like they left off a half hour. THE PAYBACK is rated-R but really is not more graphic than the Rock version. Probaly the only reason for the R is that uneccessary rape part. And that's no fun. Sorbo is pretty likable as bland hunks go and he has a couple badass moments. But he has neither the redneck edge of any of the screen depictions of Buford Pusser, or the unstoppable charisma of The Rock. I am glad it returns to the South. And this is really shot in Texas, not one of those California playing Texas things. But that's not really enough. Like the Rock version, they actually put the phrase "walking tall" into a sentence: "Your father gave me my badge. He said wear it with pride, 'n... walk tall." That's pretty corny, I like it. But the filmatists aren't corny enough to make a big deal out of him carrying a stick. He only has it in that one scene. But maybe we want corny. Maybe we want to see a sheriff strutting around with a stick. You gotta touch the wood to absorb the Walking Tall spirit. Without it Kevin Sorbo is no Buford Pusser, no Chris Vaughn, he's just some nice fella out for revenge. This is the competent type of DTV sequel. Reasonably made, not totally shitty, has its moments, but doesn't offer anything fresh. Not stupid enough to be embarrassing, but not crazy enough to be memorable. I wish they wouldn't bother with these start-over-with-a-new-character-and-rehash-the-original-storyline sequels. The story needs to progress. Maybe in part 3 (already on the way). These were shot back-to-back like LORD OF THE RINGS so maybe it'll really get rolling in the next one, like when Gollum showed up. So THE PAYBACK is okay as far as DTV sequels go, but how does it compare to the original sequel? The REAL part 2? To no one's surprise, the weirdly titled PART 2 WALKING TALL THE LEGEND OF BUFORD PUSSER is alot more entertaining. It opens dramatically with Pusser out of sight as a group of his friends have a porch-front meeting discussing whether they should try to talk him out of running for re-election now that he's had his face blown off. But they figure he's not gonna leave office until he's taken care of the unknown assholes responsible for his wife's death. Meanwhile, those very unknown assholes are having a meeting of their own. The moonshine kingpin who put the hit on Buford and his wife demands that his two fuck-up henchmen finish the job. Then we see Buford, still recovering from the attack. When they take his face cast off he's Bo Svenson instead of Joe Don Baker - it's as if he has healed into a different person. Svenson makes a great Buford Pusser though, maybe the best. He looks menacing, towering over everybody at something like 6'6.5", but he's also charming. Squint at him just right and he looks like a giant Steve McQueen. So you can see why that secretary is always making eyes at him. The whole movie is basically a series of episodes where different people try to kill Buford while he keeps outsmarting them and busting various moonshine operations trying to trace his way to the top man. The bad guys hire a professional race car driver to run him off the road, they put dynamite in his car, they cut his brakes (killing his best deputy), they hire a prostitute to lure him to a cabin so they can snipe him, they plan to ambush him with machine guns. There are multiple backroads car chases (with roadblock), a high speed boat chase (with waterblock), he destroys a fancy car using only a bat and his bare hands, he busts multiple moonshiners (including his dad's best friend), he gets shot again. Maybe that's why the original movies are so much more compelling than the remakes, there's just so much more that happens. The remakes stick too close to formula without coming up with enough excitement to throw in there. They need more flourish. PART 2 ends in the middle like STAR WARS PART 2 EMPIRE. Buford thinks he knows who the top man is, but he can't get to him yet. And Buford's been shot so he's being taken away in an ambulance as it ends. This works as an ending but the filmatists decide to give you a kick to the balls by suddenly telling you that Buford Pusser died in a car accident, showing the actual police report and implying that it might've been a setup. I guess you can expect an ending like that from a movie that opens not with "based on a true story" but instead with a signed and notarized avidavit from the screenwriter stating that the movie is based on stories Pusser told him. That's another reason these remakes feel off. The real WALKING TALL movies always ended on kind of a bummer. The first one has a symbolic victory, but only after Buford's wife is dead and he's in a full head cast like a mummy 'cause he got shot in the face. The second one he's been shot and then it tells you that the real Buford died in a car accident. The third one they actually re-enact the car accident and poor Dwana crying next to his body. Shit, maybe it's a good thing. Maybe DTV sequels shouldn't leave you bummed out at the end. But they already made part 3, they probaly should've left him with something to avenge from the end of part 2. That would make the REMAKE: WALKING TALL saga a little more dramatic. I bet Joe Halpin would've done it. Anyway, WALKING TALL: THE PAYBACK (should be called THE PAYBACK WALKING TALL) comes out 2/20/07. I'll keep you updated on part 3. Thanks, buds. --Vern suggested talkback topics: *So now you're reviewing STRAIGHT TO VIDEO? What the hell happened to this sight, I am taking my collection of limited edition lords of the rings statues and maps to the corner to sulk *I can tell Brian Singer is gay by his camera placements as they compare to an obscure BIble verse about not eating shellfish and that is NOT Superman. but at least he's not directing transformables i don't want my transformables robots to be fruity *Hey Vern when does Flight of Fury come out *something about Walking Tall