Faster

Starring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Billy Bob Thorton, Oliver Jackson- Cohen
Directed by: George Tillman Jr.
Rated: R for strong violence, some drug use and language
Movie Released: 2010

IMDB Link

After a WWE career that catapulted him to the spotlight, few people have been able to replicate the success of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.  The Rock had the charisma and the acting ability to break out of his meathead roles and become an entertaining actor, despite a less than stellar start in the film, The Scorpion King.  However, after the rocky start subsided, The Rock found a way to distance himself from the wrestling persona he had created and moved toward acting in family films and being quite sucessful at it.   For many it was a disappointment, especially those who thought he would pick up the reigns of the struggling action hero franchise films but The Rock moved forward, eventually ditching “The Rock” and became known as Dwayne Johnson, the actor.  Perhaps that’s why I was more than happy to see Johnson make his return back to the action franchise with the film Faster.

Faster follows a on on parole prisoner (Johnson) as he tries to track down all the men responsible for his brother’sbrutal murder that happened after a bank job went wrong.  Hell bent on only one thing, revenge, he moves forward fearlessly bullying his way into the lives of those who crossed him and executing them one by one.  However, all really isn’t that easy.  A skilled hit man has been contracted by one of Johnson’s victims to kill Johnson before he gets to them, and a drug addict cop with nothing to lose is also hot on his trail.

This film has all the makings of what could be a great film, and in many regards is a throwback to 70’s films, a genre that I will be the first to say I am not well versed in.  This gritty, grindhouse wannabe flick stomps its way through a 2 hour runtime the entire time thinking it is something far more clever than it really truly is.  My biggest issue with this movie was simply how serious it took itself.  I felt as though director George Tillman Jr. thought he was making an epic film, and a perfect homage to his 70’s favorites.  Perhaps because directors like Tarrantino has crafted cinematic perfections that have done it better, Tillman’s attempts fall flat.  Oddly enough, Faster was a movie that should have simply relied on the theory of less is more.    Many scenes were ruined just by having actors spit out dumb one liners, and pointless plot advancement sequences rather focusing on the simple revenge flick that it was.   At no point did I go into Faster wanting an advanced plot.  I wanted to see “The Rock” be a tough guy who kicked butt and took names.  Faster tried to provide me that with a generic “plot twist” and a film with the subtlety of tack hammer to the head.

After The Rundown, I couldn’t wait to see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson suit up again to be an action hero.  He had the look and the charisma that made people like Stallone and Schwartzenegger super stars.  On top of all of that, you could see that he also had the ability to act that came almost second nature to him.  However his return to action with Faster couldn’t be less well received.  Johnson has about the charisma of  for lack of a better metaphor, a rock (pun intended).  He comes across as a bulky meathead that is given little to go on other than being big and menacing.   I’d expect something like this from WWE films, but this seemed like 2 steps backward for Johnson.   Don’t get me wrong, despite a character that couldn’t be less interesting, Johnson gives it his all and it is hard not to cheer for him in this film.  In all actuality, Johnson makes this film worth viewing.

Alongside Johnson is Billy Bob Thorton, who tries to play an aged, drug addict cop.  Thorton’s attempt fizzles horribly on screen.  Thorton hams up the camera with a performance that only his mother could be proud of.  Also chewing up screen time is actor Oliver Jackson-Cohen, a relative new comer who has the look of a person you get when you want Jake Gyllenhal but can’t afford the price tag.  This low rent Jake plays the killer hired to stop Johnson in his tracks, and plays an over the top, obsessive compulsive hit man who had a childhood not much unlike Forrest Gump.  These over the top supporting characters would have worked if the movie had embraced the cheese, but instead the film tried to take itself seriously.

If you’ve noticed, I’ve only referred to actors by their real names.  At no point have I given out a character name. That’s because, I don’t think anyone took the time to name them.  Johnson’s character is known simply as “Driver” because he was a driver in a back heist.  Thorton’s character is “Cop” because he is the cop tracking him, and Jackson-Cohen is simply labeled “killer.”  In order to play up their laziness, they simply stamp these titles up on the screen as you first are introduced to them, satirically trying to point out their stupidity.

When it really gets down to it, I want to tell you that Faster is a good movie.  I can’t do that.  I want to tell you at the same time Faster was a terrible movie.  I can’t do that either.  This film is just simply a mildly entertaining mess of a film that has its moments of both entertainment and painful stupidity.  It lacks all the elements of a quality film, yet somehow manages to be watchable.  Go in with your expectations low and Faster won’t disappoint.   If you’re looking for 80’s action movie glory be prepped to be underwhelmed.

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