the beginning of 2003's The Rundown, viewers were
treated to what many fans saw as a passing of the action
hero torch, as Arnold Schwarzenegger quipped, “Have
fun!” to The Rock, in a blink-and-you-missed-it scene.
It was considered as Ah-nuld’s stamp of approval and
assurance to the audience that there is another who would
step in as the next ripped action star.
The Rock did have fun in that action comedy and in a couple
other action flicks but then he branched out to Disney kiddie-fare,
much to the surprise and disappointment of those who craved
old school action. They wanted him to be their big-screen
hero, and now with Faster, those action junkies
may get their fix.
Or maybe not….it depends on whether or not you want
brains behind your chiseled and tattooed brawn. This movie
is high on protein and lean muscle mass and low on grey
matter. But really, it doesn’t matter. It’s
a one-note revenge flick with a handful of stereotypes of
society’s lowest lowlifes, a cartoonish hitman and
an awesome black Chevy Cevelle that owns every frame its
Wasting no time (it is called Faster), director
George Tillman (Notorious and Men of Honor)
gives us Dwayne Johnson pacing a cage like a lion ready
to pounce. The cage is a California jail cell where Johnson’s
silent but strong character has spent the last ten years
building up a vendetta for all those who’ve wronged
the driver in a bank hit that went wrong, resulting in the
brutal murder of his brother right in front of him. Upon
his release, the Warden (Tom Berenger) asks him if he has
any questions, and the first line he utters, “Where’s
the exit?” is indicative of this raging hulk’s
one-track mind. Now a free man, his boy Roy (Mike Epps)
left him a sweet set of wheels and a handy to-do list with
the names and addresses of every man involved in that fateful
moment from his past.
The goal is simple: track these cretins and put them down.
This Driver knows nothing about stealth or silencers. He
is sheer blunt trauma, leaving his guns to do the talking.
Once behind the wheel, brothers and screenwriters Tony Gayton
and Joe Gayton, feel the need to spell the players out for
us as we see the words “Driver” across the screen.
We’re also told that a tired and bored-looking Billy
Bob Thornton is ”Cop”, a disgraced and drug-addicted
detective who sleazes his way onto Det. Cicero’s (Carla
Gugino, also starred with Johnson in Race to Witch Mountain
and here is left to spout exposition) pursuit of Driver.
I can accept what they’re going for here by breaking
down the characters to what they do, along with the Grindhouse-style
quick cuts and over-saturated lenses.
But it didnt take long for them to baffle, annoy and frustrate
me with the addition of ”Killer” a hitman with
a silly Euro accent played by Oliver Jackson Cohen. He’s
a self-made, silicon start-up millionaire whose hones his
body and mind over the years and now spends his days “beating
yoga”, looking at pictures of himself and accepting
random hits (for a dollar) just to rescue him from boredom.
If all that wasn’t enough, he also has to be a borderline
psycho who really needs his meds to keep him acting like
a normal Bruce Wayne/Richie Rich….although he is described
by one witness as ”beautiful”.
wait, there’s more….he has a trophy, er, girlfriend
simply named Lily (played by Lost alum, Maggie
Grace) because she has no occupation. Grace is relegated
to lounging around in bed, walking around in a bikini and
prepping her man’s many weapons. Oh wait, she does
get to wear a wedding dress as she and Killer work in a
quickie honeymoon playing target practice in the desert,
before he returns to chasing Driver.
These two characters are such a ridiculous waste of screen
time (not the actors, mind you), it’s a shame I wasted
a couple of paragraphs on them. It seems they’re even
a distraction in a review!
It’s a shame those two take screen time away from
Johnson, because he is good here. He’s a man of few
words here, relying on body language and emotive expressions
to capture the rage and pain this man is dealing with. If
he’s not speeding in his Chevy, then he’s barreling
down hallways shoulders first, like an unstoppable beast.
He may easily dispense with the men on his list, but he
also shows a glimmer of humanity as we see him struggle
with the job at hand right before each deadly dead. Johnson
isn’t playing a hero we should root for -- he knows
it and we know it and yet we both know there’s no
His need to get rid of scum is understandable and we also
know that it’s a dark road he’s driving on,
one that will drown his soul in darkness. One man on the
list, now reformed and an Evangelist (another Lost
alum, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) impacting his flock for
the good, tries to help Driver see the light which has long
diminished. This struggle between light and darkness could’ve
been examined in more detail, delivering a more compelling
storyline. Since this is really just a Kill Bill
riff-off, all that’s needed is a point A to point
B body count.
At one time, director Phil Joanou (who directed Johnson
in 2006's Gridiron Gang) was attached to direct,
but based on what there is to work with here, I don’t
know what he would’ve done differently than Tillman
an appropriately gritty and hyperventilating action film
that wastes no time with irony. Unfortunately, the intensity
of it all is undone by unconvincing drama (brief supporting
characters played by Moon Bloodgood and Jennifer Carpenter)
and forced religious elements which bog down the film as
much as Killer and Lily. It’s as if the filmmakers
felt that a fast and furious Dwayne ”The Rock”
Johnson wasn’t enough for moviegoers.
I like Johnson. He has proven acting chops and has made
some wise decisions by showing his range over the years.
But let’s face it, he’s not gonna look like
this forever, so why can’t we see him in more action
films where he takes Schwarzenegger’s advice? All
fans of Johnson really want out of a movie like this is
to see him as a force to reckon with. There’s no need
to load his already bulky frame with dead weight to slow
him down. Remember? It’s called Faster.