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The Rock Gets Pissed Off: It's all about the revenge in Faster 

You won’t have to work too hard to keep up with Faster, a bullet-headed, throwaway vengeance flick that is stripped-down to the max and beefed up to the hilt from title to characters to plot.

click to enlarge film_faster.jpg

You won't have to work too hard to keep up with Faster, a bullet-headed, throwaway vengeance flick that is stripped-down to the max and beefed up to the hilt from title to characters to plot. It never strives to be more, concentrating on making the most of its wild-ass look and self-imposed restrictions.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson plays Driver, an ex-con seeking revenge. (There's no special significance in the name, Like other characters, Johnson's Driver's identity is derived from his role. An apparent attempt at some kind of post-modern, action flick minimalism in which first plots and now names are eschewed.) The first scene you see is Johnson's pumped-up chest heaving and glistening as he paces back and forth in his cell like a caged animal. Upon release, Driver sprints to his Chevelle, which he "hid" in a junkyard. He lays some impressive rubber as heavy rock music blares. Like a predatory lizard, he then walks into an office and shoots a dude in the head. Driver, you see, is on a mission to systematically kill anyone associated with his brother's murder.

On the other side of the law is a drug-addled detective (Billy Bob Thornton) known simply as Cop who's investigating the string of murders. Also thrown into the mix is Killer, a guy mysteriously hired to "hit" Driver. Oh, and Carla Gugino (Sin City) plays another cop, but she doesn't get a no-brained nickname.

Steeped in flashbacks, everyone has an unnecessary back story that tries to glue the film together and give it some heft beyond the relentless gun blazing. Redemption is the key theme and every character is pathetic on some level. We're supposed to be sucked in and have some sympathy for this bevy of losers. While the soap opera squalor forces the characters to face their demons, the audience is left asking, "who cares?"

Director George Tillman Jr. (Notorious) draws from Michael Mann's Thief and Dominic Sena's Gone in 60 Seconds, while spattering Faster with indie aspirations. Tillman, Jr. lays on the ridiculous hyper reality with earth-toned desert settings, insane theatrical lighting and an undecipherable chase scene in reverse. The only problem is that every camera angle in the book, grainy exposures and changing hue can't camouflage Faster's stumbling, blunt-force narrative. How does a huge, tattooed dude drive across half of California and Nevada killing guys left and right without drawing the attention of the authorities? The answer: again, who cares?

So when Driver marches into a hospital to kill a patient at point-blank range, the result isn't shock - it's laughter. Tillman, Jr. incorporates over-the-top sound effects while Clint Mansell's heartbeat score is abnormally intense. There's also a blatant rip-off and unoriginal use of Kenny Rogers and the First Edition's "Just Dropped in (To See What Condition My Condition Is In)." C'mon - that's just flat out sacrilege for Lebowski fans.

The acting is all over the map. The Rock utters few lines and is not adept at brooding, opting rather to remain steely-eyed and devilishly stoic, although he's much better here than I've ever seen him. Billy Bob does his good-guy/bad-guy routine with a dose of perplexity as to his motives. However, the real standout for all the wrong reasons is Killer played by the relatively unknown Oliver Jackson-Cohen. The character is a total cliché: a dashing, rich guy who drives a Ferrari and has a beautiful blonde girlfriend. He may be a trained assassin, or he might kill for amusement. Speaking with a strange British accent and flashing a weird smile, Jackson-Cohen lacks the magnitude to inhabit such an enigmatic role. A more flamboyantly charged performance would've worked. There are some really hilarious lines like when the Killer exclaims, "I beat yoga. What's next?" or when Driver's ex-girlfriend yells, "I know what you're doing... I saw it on TV!"

Faster is brutal, bloody, tough, gritty, violent and stupid. In other words, it has all the elements of a male fantasy revenge flick with a moral code gone berserk. I thought Faster would make me want to bolt as fast as it started, but it turns out that was not the case. Once it was over though, I couldn't get it out of my head fast enough.

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Carla Gugino, Maggie Grace, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Directed by George Tillman Jr.
Rated R


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