“Faster” is the story of a man known as Driver (Dwayne Johnson), who upon being released from prison after serving ten years for a bank robbery instantly embarks upon a killing spree. However, these murders though seemingly random at first, are soon revealed to be linked to a tragic event ten years ago when Driver’s older brother was murdered before his very eyes. Now, the only thing standing between Driver and those responsible for his pain is a burnt out cop (Billy Bob Thornton) and his temporary partner (Carla Gugino), and an assassin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) hired to kill him.
Prior to watching this film I was anxious to see it simply for the fact that Dwayne Johnson is back in his action element. No more of the cutesy, kid-friendly fare that he’d been saddled with by Disney for the last few years. However, when watching the movie unfold, my feelings toward the film were fast becoming muddled by the proceedings.
Sure, Dwayne was kicking butt and taking names in a way harkening back to the hard-hitting action flicks of the eighties and nineties (or even last year’s “The Expendables” for that matter), which was fun for a little while. However, the movie quickly started feeling like the action was the only thing attempting to hold everything together.
The problem was that the story was unbelievably thin, to the point of being nearly non-existent in fact. Just to be clear, this is not to say that I was expecting Oscar caliber storytelling by any means. I just think that there should have been enough going on to at least carry the movie and keep my attention for the 90 minute duration. Apparently, these “lofty” expectations were too high for this film, and I found myself becoming bored after approximately twenty minutes.
To make matters worse, the film’s action scenes were surprisingly repetitive after the first two or three kills. Sure, there were a couple that broke up the monotony, but for the most part Driver dispatches his deadly brand of revenge/justice in the same expedient manner every time. At first this callous and swift approach was startling and unexpected, but soon I was wishing for some variety and more excitement.
With this sort of bare-bones approach combined with the repetitive nature of the action sequences, I should have known the story written by Tony Gayton (“Murder By Numbers”) and Joe Gayton (“Bulletproof”) was going to be weak from the get-go. However, I tried to keep an open mind and just enjoy it for the brainless entertainment that it was, but even that wasn’t enough to save this movie.
Now, as I’ve mentioned already, the main star in this lackluster actioner is Dwayne Johnson. For an actor making his return to his roots (so to speak) this would seem the ideal role; after all, there’s not much for him to do other than be violent.
The problem with this is that Dwayne has proven in previous films that he has acting chops and can bring much more to a character besides hulking mass. To me, while I had hoped this film would cement his return to action hero status, which it did in some respects, it also felt like a step backwards as the role seemed like a walk in the park that could have gone to a lesser talent.
Alongside Dwayne is another actor who was wasted in the role literally and figuratively (his character’s an addict) is Billy Bob Thornton (“Monster’s Ball”). While I’m no fan of Billy Bob’s by any means, I do recognize that he is a very good actor all the same. But his role here is clichéd and boring, and it appears that Billy Bob felt the same way, because I thought he was really phoning in his performance every step of the way.
Lastly, actress Carla Gugino (“Sin City”) and actor Oliver Jackson-Cohen (“Going the Distance”) attempt to bring more to their painfully stereotypical roles of the female detective desperate to prove herself and an assassin that doesn’t enjoy his work, respectively. However, as with their fellow cookie-cutter cut-out characters portrayed by Dwayne and Billy Bob, these two were given characters with nothing more than unoriginality to work with. So, no matter how hard they tried; their efforts were never enough to overcome the drivel on display.
Now, while on the topic of the cast, I have a couple of thoughts as to why they all signed on to this ill-fated project.
I’m sure the appeal to work on what could have been a very successful action film, especially one that would hardly be considered taxing on their dramatic talents, would be enticing for any actor or actress looking for an easy payday. But the least these cast members could have done was make sure the material was worthy of their attention, which it clearly was not.
In closing, as you have no doubt surmised, this movie was an utter disappointment. The only bright point for the film is the fact that Dwayne Johnson was back in his element. “Faster” is filled with missed opportunities, unoriginality, repetition, and above all, boredom.
“Faster” is rated R for violence, language, and brief drug use.
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