Dwayne Johnson(formerly known as wrestling star The Rock, until turning to movies and deciding to drop that nickname to be taken more seriously, only to make a comeback into the ring seven years later) returns to his ass kicking ways in Faster, a revenge tale with a plot that’s reminiscent of many 70’s grindhouse pictures and characters that have absolutely no unique or defining features about them whatsoever.
Too badass to even have a name, Johnson plays Driver, a recently released prison inmate who instantly sets out to avenge his brothers murder. He manages to track the first on his list mere hours after being released, which obviously catches the attention of the police, namely another unnamed character who only goes by “Cop” (Billy Bob Thornton). Possibly the most cliched of all the characters, Cop has it all: a heroin addiction, a rocky relationship with an ex wife and is only 10 days from retirement. If there’s anything at all positive in his life, it’s his son, Tommy, but his pursuit of Driver threatens to destroy that relationship. But wait: there’s more!
Not only does Driver have Cop after him, one of the targets on Drivers hit list hires a hitman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), or “Killer”, for extra protection. So what started out as a relatively straighforward revenge killing rampage is turning into quite the emotional rollercoaster.
But what about the killings? Are they bloodsplatteringly delicious? Unfortunately, the answer is a massively resounding no. Each killing is either exactly the same with absolutely no build up, or is executed without a worthwhile struggle. The gore is kept to a minimum, as is the foul language: how this managed to get an R rating is baffling. They’re frustratingly infrequent too: there were many occasions where drama took precedence over the action. Which would have been fine, if it wasn’t advertised as a “high octane adrenaline fuelled thrill ride”, a phrase that many professional reviewers love to use to get their names on the advertising material if a film contains a car. Even by the title, it gives the impression that this will be at least a moderately quick paced movie, but that’s far from the truth. In places, it’s more of a vehicle being towed up a hill in first gear and the car towing is lacking any wheels.
Johnson delivers the few lines he has with the energy and emotion of a doctor breaking bad news, whilst Thornton mumbles incoherently looking about as entertained as an Oasis fan at a Slayer concert. His partner, Cicero (Carla Gugino), possibly takes her role a little too seriously, but her performance can’t be faulted. Tom Berenger makes an ever so slight cameo as the prison warden: his scene is before the opening credits and even his name appears there but there is no sign of him after that. Killer seems a little unnecessary though, and certainly wouldn’t have been missed if the character had been omitted from the script completely. If anything, he was a minor annoyance to Driver, like those pop ups that advertise on-line casinos when all you want to do is browse the internet in peace.
Maybe I’m looking too far into it; this was never meant to break any new grounds and it succeeds in not doing so. It is the epitome of conventional, and prides itself on unoriginality. It was also good to see Johnson back in roles that his physique was made for, rather than dressing as a fairy.
If you’re a fan of action movies and cars, there really is no doubt that you’ll find something entertaining about Faster, but it’s certainly more “abiding by the speed limit” than its title suggests.