Walking Tall (2004) - Synopsis
The first big screen version of Walking Tall, starring Joe Don Baker as real-life Tennessee Sheriff Buford Pusser, debuted in 1973 and was a huge grassroots hit with moviegoers. Its two sequels, Walking Tall Part II (1975) and Final Chapter: Walking Tall (1977), starred Bo Svenson as Sheriff Pusser and were also popular, memorable versions of the lawman’s heroic stand against crime in his small, rural Southern town.
In the new Walking Tall, the original theme remains – one man standing up for his beliefs and vowing to do what’s right against great odds – but the story itself gets an update. Buford Pusser is now Chris Vaughn (played by The Rock), a man who returns to his boyhood home in the Pacific Northwest after leaving to pursue a decorated career in the U.S. Armed Forces after high school. Slipping back into town unannounced, Chris is shocked and saddened by what he sees. His beloved town has been ravaged by poverty and corruption, its vital lumber mill is closed, and a crime-ridden casino is now the town’s biggest employer.
It seems Chris’s well-heeled high school rival, Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough), has become the new robber baron of Ferguson, Washington. His wealth and influence have allowed him to open the casino, a gambling mecca called the Wild Cherry. Even Chris’s high school girlfriend, Deni (Ashley Scott) is one of the casino employees; she dances there as a stripper.
Upon Chris’s return, he and some old friends, including best friend Ray Templeton (Johnny Knoxville), visit the Wild Cherry on Jay’s “good will” invitation. But Chris discovers cheating at the craps tables, and a fight erupts with Hamilton’s security guards that ultimately leaves Chris overpowered, savagely beaten, and left for dead.
Chris’s family – dad Chris, Sr. (John Beasley), mom Connie (Barbara Tarbuck), sister Michelle (Kristen Wilson), and her son, Pete (Khleo Thomas) – help him recover and plead for him to leave things as they are. But Chris is a man who won’t back down. He decides to run for sheriff and rid his hometown of crime with the law as his main weapon.
With Ray as his deputy, Chris sets out to clean up the mess Hamilton has made. Now Sheriff Chris Vaughn, he wields a huge stick fashioned from lumber mill pine. He’s one man against many – but he is Walking Tall.