An ex-con sets out to avenge his brother’s death after they were double-crossed during a heist years ago. During his campaign, however, he’s tracked by a veteran cop and an egocentric hit man.
At first, FASTER looks to be a standard revenge movie. For the first fifteen minutes, I was annoyed at its “stylieness” – a condition afflicting films that aspire to stylishness, but fall short. Characters are introduced with a freezeframe and a pithy title like “Driver” or “Cop”. There is also the excessive use of slow motion and the choice of some obvious pop songs to give us a read on new characters. Freeze frame on me, “Annoyed Reviewer.”
As the movie unfolds, it becomes less predictable. Our hero Driver, is played by Dwayne Johnson, the artist formerly known as The Rock. He is the man who seeks vengeance. However Billy Bob Thornton as the pitiful screw-up, Cop, is equally important. British actor Oliver Jackson-Cohen is Killer and has a pivotal role to play in the story. Unlike many revenge tales with their straightfiorward plots, this film is chock-full of characters with their own storylines, which are told even as the main story is presented both in flashback and present-time.
FASTER also has a daffy streak. The life and motivations of Killer are amusingly oddball. I was reminded of the original MECHANIC (1972) where Charles Bronson’s hitman character is presented as a cultured artiste of assassination. Killer, it seems, is having a weird time with his job. This has little to do with the story of Driver but it is an entertaining sideshow to the main event.
For the most part, George Tillman Jr controls the various elements of his movie with skill and confidence. His career includes his directorial work on MEN OF HONOUR (2000) and NOTORIOUS (2009). So despite its shaky start, FASTER does what a revenge film needs to, which is to deliver scenes of violent retribution. The action is always competent and occasionally well done.
Thornton can play down-at-heel with the best of them. He is perfect in his role of a loser, near-to-retirement policeman. Carla Gugino is great as usual, this time playing Detective Cicero, an efficient, cynical cop. She resents being stuck with Thornton’s useless Cop character. Jackson-Cohen is solid as Killer. The Rock is adequate in his part as Driver. I felt somewhat like I did with Clooney’s role in The American. Sure, I don’t want to see Dwayne Johnson in “hilarious” family fare like TOOTH FAIRY (2010), but he has plenty of screen charisma and when he dials this down the audience is the poorer for it.
Despite his years as ass-kicking wrestler, The Rock, watching him play a guy blowing away miscreants with a headshot is not Johnson at his best. Interestingly, I found his most compelling fight was a close quarters, one-on-one battle near the movie’s end. Perhaps more hand-to-hand combat would have made better use of Johnson’s action skills. (On a similar note, Jackie Chan was never as exciting wielding a firearm as he was with his fists).
In the end, FASTER is a fast-moving revenge flick with just enough presposterously offbeat elements to make it an entertaining evening at the movies. FASTER is in Australian cinemas now. I rated it 3/5.