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Buford Pusser's a wrestler, whose wife wants him to settle down, so they go to his home town in Tennessee, where he plans to get into business with his father. But he is shocked to discover all sorts of graft and corruption going on. And when he is a victim of it and decides to strike back by running against the corrupt sheriff. And he wins and wages his own little war against them. Written by
"Walking Tall" is certainly one of the most ass kicking movies ever made. It's a fictionalization of the true story of Tennessee sheriff Buford Pusser, played here with conviction and intensity by Joe Don Baker. Buford has retired from life as a wrestler, hoping to settle down to a quiet life in his hometown, but he finds out that everything has gotten crooked, with local bigwigs running the show. Soon enraged at a system that does little to nothing to help the common man, he wages a personal war on corruption, using any method necessary. The movie does its job as far as manipulating its audience. It doesn't take long for viewers to get their blood lust up, and loudly cheer on our swaggering hero as he gives the assorted sleazy cretins their just desserts. And it doesn't hold back in the violence department, either; even if the blood is typically bright red movie blood that looks more like paint than anything, there's a lot of it that flows before the movie is over. And we can also definitely take interest in a story of a regular Joe who fumes at the injustices of the world, and refuses to live in a place where the big shots can have their way at any time. When Pusser puts a pompous, ineffective judge (Douglas Fowley) in his place, or humiliates a rat by having them crawl on all fours, it's not hard to pump one's fist in the air and yell, "YEAH!" All of the bad people are one dimensional, sleazy, selfish jerks; even though they may disagree with one another on methods used, they all look out for number one and enjoy their hold on the community. Provided one can take the brutality, and doesn't mind having their buttons pushed so obviously, "Walking Tall" is gripping. A superb cast really helps in the selling of the material, with Elizabeth Hartman as the troubled but loyal wife, Gene Evans as the ineffectual sheriff, Bruce Glover and Felton Perry as deputies, real-life siblings Leif Garrett and Dawn Lyn as the Pusser children, Noah Beery Jr. and Lurene Tuttle as Buford's folks, Rosemary Murphy as trouble making Callie Hacker, and assorted other character players such as Arch Johnson, Don Keefer, Sam Laws, Kenneth Tobey, Pepper Martin, Red West, Logan Ramsey, Richard X. Slattery, Sidney Clute, and John Myhers. Now, granted, all of what happens is plenty predictable, but it's hard to deny how this could become a crowd pleasing entertainment on a non-think level. And Buford's story didn't end here, with two sequels, a TV movie, a short lived series, and a loose remake & subsequent sequels to follow, just going to show how enduring the concept of a strong, principled man fighting for what's right can be. Seven out of 10.
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