Theatrical Review: FASTER
Writers: Tony Gayton, Joe Gayton
Director: George Tillman, Jr.
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Carla Gugino
Studio: CBS Films
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has certainly proven in his career that he can (almost) do it all. He's funny, charming, and capable of beating the crap out of anyone in his path. Ladies love him, guys love him, and kids love him. We've seem him in many roles, but one role we've never really seen from him is a character in an over-the-top violent hard-R revenge/action film. It's a very welcome change of pace from what we've seen of Johnson over the years, and in FASTER, his performance of a hyper-focused killer is extremely high on action, and thankfully (considering some of the dialogue) short on words. The film definitely has its flaws, but you will see Johnson kick ass in ways that have never seen.
FASTER is centered on Johnson's character, "Driver" (none of the main characters have given names). Driver has been locked away in prison, and we open upon him pacing back and forth in his cell, like a caged lion pacing while waiting for his dinner. Highly focused, rippling tattooed muscles flexing, he paces and stares at a picture of him and someone we can only assume is a relative or close friend. One farewell advice-laden speech from the warden, played by Tom Berenger (who sadly was only in this one scene), and Driver is a free man. He wastes no time in finding a car mysteriously left for him with a list of names inside of it, prepared by a private investigator. After finding the first name on his list, Driver doesn't hesitate to blow a hole in the guy's head in front of dozens of witnesses and security cameras.
It soon becomes apparent that Driver is seeking revenge on the men who killed his brother. Hot on his trail are a mismatched pair of cops, played by Billy Bob Thornton and Carla Gugino. Billy Bob's portrayal of "Cop" is reminiscent of Nicolas Cage's performance from BAD LIEUTENANT, at least as far as some of his addictions go.
With such an interesting basic premise its core, there is almost no time spent on plot or character development and, depending on what exactly it is that you’re expecting out of a movie like this, it could very well annoy and bother viewers. There are characters who are in the movie for one scene and serve as placeholders in between action sequences that attempt to shine a light on who Driver is, but in the end only serve to make him more mysterious. He has a tattoo that is alluded to several times as a mark that is supposed to make him the ultimate un-fuck-withable badass, but never do we find out what it actually means. There is an assassin that is hired to go after Driver, named "Killer," but other than being a former computer whiz who practices yoga (seriously) and has a hot girlfriend, we know nothing about his motivations, other than that he's a bored multi-millionaire who becomes obsessed with Driver because he's faster (get it) than he is.
The problems in the script are pretty major and there are some very strange moments that, without the necessary development, seem completely non-sensical. Going into details on most of them would be spoiling moments in the film. However, a primary example of this is how Driver goes after who he thinks set up he and his brother. The viewer is never really told why he might have come to this conclusion, and it's even more baffling how easily he dismisses a very costly mistake he almost made.
Thankfully, while the dialogue is usually bad, the performances are not. The very little character development we do get for Driver indicates that he is not a man of violence, but a man who loved his brother. The job he and his brother took that led to his brother's death was not his place to be, and when he kills his victims, there are times when the look on his face indicates it is almost painful to him. This is not who he truly is.
Thornton’s portrayal of Cop is right on par with the clichéd plot points of a lot of action films (including being a few days from retirement), but throughout the movie he does a capable job of acting like his character is genuinely wanting to catch this ruthless killer before he retires. Some of the other performances are hard to critique, simply because we never learn their motivations. The relationship between Killer and his girlfriend comes off as an annoying side story that doesn't appear to even belong in the movie and just ends up distracting from the focus of the film, which should really only be Driver and Cop.
Anyone who has seen the film's trailer will surely notice that there are previously seen scenes missing from the film, and while this is a more and more common practice, in this instance it certainly seems to have robbed the film of a more compelling ending, and certainly a more testosterone-laden action sequence. There are a number of scenes involving a game of chicken between Driver and Killer that seem to come from the third act of the film. It's covered very well in the article written HERE.
With all of the flaws that come packaged in FASTER, you as a viewer have to ultimately decide how much substance you like with your testosterone. This movie is fatally flawed story wise, low on logic, but very high on the gratuitous violence. It's ultimately a fun ride, and even has an almost exploitation genre feel to it. It’s very stylish, and there are many cool moments to warrant giving this film a view, especially if you’re a big fan of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
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