Walking Tall: The PaybackReviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 03/09/07 19:55:16
An admission: I liked “Walking Tall,” the dopey 2004 remake-in-name-only of the dopey 1973 Joe Don Baker flick. Sure, it was a cheap vehicle for The Rock, another goofy push to make him the next big movie star, but whaddyaknow, it worked.A second admission: I also liked “Walking Tall: The Payback,” the even dopier sequel-in-name-only that just hit video shelves. This one’s part of the direct-to-video sequel trend that just won’t seem to go away, but in this case, that’s OK. Here we get another affable macho man - this time in the form of Kevin Sorbo - kicking ass and taking names for a cool ninety minutes, and whaddyaknow, it works again.
True to the franchise (which also includes multiple sequels to the original movie, plus a short-lived TV spin-off series), the story here is quick and simple: guy returns to hometown, finds corruption, cleans up the place. We’re far gone from the original true story of Sheriff Buford Pusser; not even the big hunk of wood remains. Here, Sorbo is Nick Prescott, a former Special Ops toughie who comes home to his small Texas town just in time for his dad’s murder. You see, pop’s the local sheriff, and the self-proclaimed “redneck mafia” trying to muscle their way into town doesn’t like his meddling, so they off him in a particularly messy killing that one would think might create more attention than homicidal maniacs might want around.
Anyway, Nick realizes these guys need to be stopped - for a while, not even the feds will bother stepping in - and the best way to stop them is to actually get up off one’s ass and bother fighting back. The best example of this comes midway through the picture, as Nick confronts a couple of baddies who refuse to pay for a beer, thus launching a giddy barroom brawl. It’s old hat, but it’s also big fun: we watch with a silly smile plastered on our faces as a couple of goons ignore the quiet warnings from our hero (“You’re going to pay for that beer.”), knowing full well that they’re not in fact going to pay for that beer, until Kevin Sorbo punches them enough times that we get that obligatory pay-off, with the now-bloodied villain reluctantly paying for that beer before scurrying off. (Capper: “No tip?”)
“The Payback” plays as a collection of assorted moments like this, lowbrow action for the “Walker: Texas Ranger” crowd. The whole thing feels like the pilot episode of a goofy syndicated action series, the kind you’d catch on a lazy evening and figure, sure, why not, this looks like a good enough time, and nothing else is on. As with the 2004 remake, there’s nothing here that allows the stupidity to outweigh the entertainment. The villains are two-dimensional plot fillers, but their antics are fun to watch anyway. Nick’s a bland hero, but Sorbo injects his usual charm into the role, making us root for the guy. And we get fight scenes and ’splosions a-plenty, which is all anybody who rents a DTV “Walking Tall” sequel wants to see anyway.So confident was Sony in this sequel that they’ve already wrapped on a third entry, this one also starring Sorbo and co-star Yvette Nipar (who appears as a helpful FBI agent), due in video stores later this year. For a nice change, this is one DTV franchise I actually wouldn’t mind keeping up with, considering the dumb fun involved. In fact, considering the interchangeable characters and undemanding premise, this franchise could go on for a while and not run out of steam, no matter how lowbrow and cheapjack things seem to get. Maybe next time, Sorbo will get to lug around that big hunk of wood.
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