Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Carla Gugino, Tom Berenger, Mike Epps, Maggie Grace
Director: George Tillman Jr
Writer(s): Tony Gayton, Joe Gayton
Cinematography: Michael Grady
Original Score: Clint Mansell
Running Time: 98 Mins.
The Rock, who now likes to be referred to as Dwayne Johnson since he is an established and “proper” actor, returns to his action-man roots after a brief sojourn into the realm of lame family films produced by Disney such as The Tooth Fairy and The Game Plan…or does he? On the surface Faster is pushed onto us as another Walking Tall or Fast and Furious style action romp but in truth Faster is actually closer to the revenge films of the 70’s, think Death Wish minus Charles Bronson and with a stoic Samoan man and you will be on the right track. In fact even the retro Tristar logo and the soul track that open and closes the films pretty much confirms this, though I can’t blame the distributors for pushing this on as they have given Johnson’s role in Fast Five just around the corner.
So mis-marketing aside what is there in Faster, well the title is just as misleading (theres very little in the way of car chases) but the content is a nice surprise, perhaps in an effort to distance himself from previously mentioned family tosh this is a decidedly abrupt shift in gear. Action scenes are pretty much non-existent with one of two brief fisticuffs and a bank robbery escape resulting to about 5 minutes of screen time meaning the majority consists of Johnson’s “Driver” seeking out all who wronged him (by way of killing his brother after a heist-gone-wrong), natura;;y this takes him cross-country but never results in anything more than a swift bullet in the head (or in one scene an ice pick!).
Not in a long time can I recall a star saying so little (verbally) though they do say actions speak louder than words, and as “Driver” rages his way through middle America the tension is aptly ramped up, rather than imply focusing on one man though we see the story through the eyes of “Cop” (Billy Bob Thornton) and “Killer” (Oliver Jackson’Cohen), both of whom have, shall we say, issues. “Cop” is the more interesting story arc of the three with Thornton better than he has been in quite some time looking rugged and drugged-up, his character treads the fine line between two-dimensional dirty cop and something a little different, all forlorn and seeking redemption…for something that is only revealed in the closing beats.
So while “Driver” does is silent hard man thing and “Cop” jitters his way through “Killer” draws the most unusual, he’s a killer for hire (who saw that one coming) and has history to do with some unexplained scars on his legs and has an apartment adorn with pictures of a more geeky looking “Killer” who was seemingly a computer whizz…oh and he’s with the rather vacuous Maggie Grace who is literally there for a bit of eye candy. This isn’t a problem (genre trait that is a requirement more like), but the supposedly complex psyche “Killer” has is, it’s hinted at but never explored and is only given short shrift and an even more brief denouement, something of a waste given all the initial (rather inexplicable) build-up.
But in bringing my review full circle, this is Johnson’s vehicle (so to speak) and he isn’t your usual idiotic ex-wrestler lug who can barely thump something convincingly, he is a man who we know can act (being both charming and believable) but does so en better with few words, the anger ever building with a simple look. If Faster refers to the pace it is bang-on, brutal and sudden, but this is no action “vehicle”.
Expect action and you will be deeply irked, expect a “serious” revenge thriller that is short, sharp and to the point and Faster might just float your boat as it harks back to the down and dirty flicks of the 70’s…Johnson as this generations Bronson, I’ll take that!