Containing many characters without real names and a plot as deep as “a dude shoots other dudes,” Faster isn’t a high-octane thriller or an insane action movie. Instead, it’s a movie about a single man’s quest for vengeance, and possibly about how that quest would affect him — although it’s not good enough to really delve into that. Instead, it’s a rather rudimentary movie that’s nowhere near as exciting as its title might promise.
The lead is named “Driver,” and is played by Dwayne Johnson in perhaps his most serious role to-date. I don’t think he cracked a single smile in the film, although I’ll concede that it would make little sense for him to do so. We first see him being released from prison, having served 10 years. A decade earlier, he, his brother, and a couple of other guys robbed a bank and got away cleanly, only to be found by another team and killed one by one. Even Driver was “killed,” legally at least, but despite a bullet rattling around in his skull, he woke up, was fixed up, and locked in a cell. Now he wants revenge on each member of that other team.
He has his list of people and then goes about gunning them down one by one. Tracking him down and trying to stop him are a pair of detectives, Cicero (Carla Gugino) and “Cop” (Billy Bob Thorton), as well as a hired gun named “Killer” (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). At least the characters names have been kept relatively simple. I wonder if that says more about the intelligence of the script or the intelligence the filmmakers think the audience has.
Driver winds up as the least interesting character in the movie. His sole motivation is “kill people because they killed my brother.” Cop is the only one with genuine depth. He’s a heroin addict who is trying to make things right with his wife and is just days away from retirement. No, the heroin addiction doesn’t wind up mattering. Neither does his family relationships. They’re all back story. He’s interesting but nothing is done with this. Killer has started having reservations about killing people but that also doesn’t really factor in.
There isn’t a lot of action in Faster. Apart from one car chase (which happens in a flashback and is very brief) and a couple of shootouts, most of the film features Driver killing a dude, running to the next one, and the other characters following. they’re usually a step behind. Sometimes they meet at the scene and they shoot at each other but never hit, even though Driver refuses to take cover. Perhaps he knows he’s the main character and can’t die until the climax, if at all.
It’s boring and too simplistic. We see the same thing happen more than once. The twist in the story is so obvious that you don’t even have to have ever previously seen a movie or read a story in order to figure it out. The plot is as basic as they come. Driver only speaks a handful of lines in the entire film, which is to The Rock’s benefit because the dialogue isn’t any good. I’d almost have preferred the entire film to be bereft of words; it could then have the pretension of being an art house film.
Of course, then it would have to delve further into what this type of single-minded approach to life that Driver takes does to a man. It would also need to dive deeper into the human spirit, what drives people, whether there are, in fact, unforgivable acts, and if a change in life can absolve someone of their past sins. Faster does some of this, but only on the surface. It wants to be something more but for one reason or another doesn’t get far enough in executing this desire.
There’s little reason to sympathize with anyone in this film. Part of the problem is that they’re all too simplistic and one-dimensional, while the other part is that the only “good” character in the film is one of the detectives, Cicero. Driver’s quest is “noble,” so the movies have taught us, but he’s so robotic that he’s basically just a Terminator. Cop is addicted to heroin and there’s something seedy about him. Killer is someone who kills for money and lied to his wife about not killing anymore. Cicero’s just doing her job, and therefore wins the character battle by default, I guess.
Dwayne Johnson doesn’t show much in the way of acting here. He stares at things angrily and then shoots them. The few moments of humanity he’s supposed to be showing don’t look much different. Billy Bob Thorton’s character is the most complex but he’s phoning in this role. Oliver Jackson-Cohen is charismatic and I would have preferred if he and Johnson swapped roles. That might have made for a more interesting film.
Faster is a revenge film with a little more on its mind but lacking in the freedom or talent to fully capitalize on that potential. The result is a boring movie where one guy shoots a few others in the head, occasionally interspersed with pointless back story that adds depth but is never used in a way that matters. The plot is simple, the action is dull, and the dialogue is laughable. The tone is downtrodden and I wish it would have gone further with its exploration of people rather than the holes left in their head after a bullet passes through.