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Rock steady in Walking Tall

In the words of Teddy Roosevelt, Walking Tall is a tale of a man who talks softly but carries a big stick. Literally. In his latest engagement, The Rock plays Chris Vaughn, a vigilante whose weapon of choice is a roughly cut 2-by-4.

Chris Vaughn is the modern day incarnation of Buford Pusser, a one-time sheriff of McNairy County, Tenn. The Rock’s Walking Tall is a remake of the 1973 feature of the same title.

Chris Vaughn is an ex-army man who returns home after an eight-year absence. But after the initial ecstasy of homecoming, he finds that the simple place he left is no longer so naïve. The main source of the town’s revenue has shifted from the cedar mill to a casino run by Chris’s old friend.

Visiting the casino, Chris runs into a mess of trouble. He suffers immense physical wounds, and when the local sheriff refuses to help him, Chris runs for the office and wins it.

As a man of few words and despite the pain he suffered, Chris is willing to let the burly incident pass into oblivion. But the casino is also where young kids get their supply of dope. When Chris’ nephew nearly overdoses on crystal meth, he decides to set things right once and for all.

Walking Tall is the updated version of a three-decades-old classic. Pusser was the basis for the character in both the silver screen versions of “Walking Tall” and a TV series under the same name.

The Rock’s transition from wrestling to acting has been well received by action movie fans who should not be disappointed at the outcome of this film.

As the main star, The Rock delivers a solid performance studded with full contact fights, shoot out scenes and his signature raised eyebrow.

However, the script lacks character development, depth and, at times, seems almost anti-climactic.

Nonetheless, the action genre is not hurt by the movie’s outcome, and there is plenty of action in it to compensate for the overly moralizing plot.

Pleasantly surprising is the direction of the film — the swooping scenes and the back and forth dialogue of the cameras add a good tone to the script-lacking flick.

The film isn’t a cinematic endeavor that will last in the minds of the audiences for the rest of their lives. It is, however, a well-spent 90 minutes of an escapist action genre. And that’s all the target audience is looking for anyway.

The Oracle’s Entertainment Editor Olga Robak recently had the chance to discuss career options, working out and the surprising vocal chops of today’s most charismatic wrestler, The Rock.

You’ve been branded the new action hero. How do you feel about that?

It’s very flattering. I’m a big fan, obviously, of action movies and the action genre. The only thing I can do as an actor would be to make movies where the action is believable, and performances are believable and everybody gets their money’s worth.

When you get a script what do you look for?

I look for a good story … (and) a simple story, partly because I’ve got a short attention span theater going on up in my head. For me, some of the simplest stories have been some of the best movies. I’m attracted to that — a good story, believable characters, characters that aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves.

Do you ever feel like you are typecast?

At first I thought so. After The Mummy Returns and before The Scorpion King came out, the majority of the scripts were your very traditional action scripts with no comedy, very little depth. I’m a big fan of comedy, and it took The Scorpion King to come out and me hosting Saturday Night Live on two different occasions, (until) writers in Hollywood started to notice (that I can do comedy).

Do you think wrestling has helped you with the fight scenes?

Absolutely. Wrestling prepared me in terms of how to take a punch, how to throw a punch, how to try to protect myself, how to choreograph the beats in an action sequence.

When you prepared to make this movie did you research it in any way?

I did as much research as I possibly could. This is a big role and (it) carries a lot of weight because it is inspired by a true story. (I got) all the books I possibly could on (Buford Pusser), but nothing prepared me better than going to McNary county where he’s from (and spending) time with his family.

Do you think in the future you are likely to move to drama or directing?

I’d like to try dramatic roles, sure. I might suck at it. I think it’s a little bit further down the road. For me, (Walking Tall) was my big dramatic role. In my small way, (of course). If Denzel (Washington) did this, I’m sure he’d get an Oscar for it. But I’d like to try dramatic roles or a musical.

So you’re a singer?

I’ve been known to sing. I’ve never sung professionally. I play my guitar and I play with my voice. It’s all blues.

I know you’re from Florida.

Yeah, I’ve been here for a long time. I went to University of Miami. Best school in the country. (I majored in) Criminology. Originally I wanted to work for the Secret Service before I got into wrestling. But life is unpredictable. I go from a criminology degree to professional wrestling.

Do you have a rigorous workout routine?

Sure, as soon as we’re done with this I’m going to go train. I usually train about six hours.

Six hours a day?

No, I’m only kidding (laughter). Usually, one hour tops. I try to be as efficient as possible. When I’m not training I try to really watch what I eat which hasn’t been the case because when you go on tours like this the food is paid for and all the food is paid for so I just eat everything. EVERYTHING — from chicken breasts to pizza to doughnuts.

So you don’t always stick to your diet?

I’m usually fairly strict. I try to stay away from fried foods and fast foods. But I indulge. I’m a big believer that you only live once and don’t cheat yourself, treat yourself. So, when I see Krispy Kreme I stop. I won’t get a dozen, I’ll get two. If I want some ice cream, I’ll stop. If I see a real Ben and Jerry’s, I’m stopping. Life is too short, you never know. And plus, ice cream just makes you happy. Like if you’re in a really sh—- mood, you start eating ice cream or you turn on the TV or radio, or if you’re like George Bush you watch the radio, you just start eating that ice cream and boy, it makes you happy.

You know, they just came out with Girl Scout Cookies ice cream available at Publix, like Samoan, for instance.

So it’s like a line of them? My mom’s gonna love that. She’s from Samoa. Oh, s—. I gotta get that.

Do you do your own stunts?

Absolutely. I try to do ALL of my own stunts. It’s important to me because the movie going audience (knows) when they see a stunt double. Unless the stunt is extremely dangerous, then stunt doubles (are necessary). But when it’s like ground and pound fighting and that type of stunt where it’s a fight than yeah, it’s all me. I can give back to the audience that way. I’ll never want them to be yelling back at the screen like, “Oh, that’s not the Rock! That’s the back of his head”

Compiled by Olga Robak