Sony // 2010 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // March 10th, 2011
Slow justice is no justice.
Faster is a return to R-rated territory for Dwayne Johnson, following an unwelcome hiatus in the land of sloppy kids' cinema. For the majority of its runtime Faster is an overblown hunk of cheesy fun, primed with speedy action and even spurts of bloody violence. It holds together credibly as a revenge flick, keeping energy levels high and maintaining at least a basic semblance of audience interest. However in the last 20 minutes everything crashes and burns. During its final act, Faster supplies one of the least surprising twists ever committed to celluloid, but even worse, starts to take itself much too seriously. As a schlocky slice of genre trash it works. As a meditation on the consequences of seeking vengeance, it definitely doesn't.
When Driver (Dwayne Johnson, The Other Guys) is released from jail, he only has one thing on his mind, Vengeance. Determined to nail the group of criminal misfits who set-up and murdered his brother, Driver grabs a fast set of wheels and a list of his targets' addresses. Mercy will not be a word in his vocabulary during this personal mission. However making things more complicated is Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Going the Distance), a mercenary more interested in outright murder than a cash reward. Killer has been hired to assassinate Driver before he begins slaughtering his victims, a task the insecure hitman relishes. As Killer and Driver leave a trail of destruction behind them, two cops (Billy Bob Thornton and Carla Gugino) are brought onboard to investigate, hoping to deliver justice upon the pair for causing such monumental chaos.
Dwayne Johnson hulks through Faster effectively, creating a character who prefers to do rather than say. His stiff and focused performance actually grants the movie a nice sense of uncertainty and fear, the actor rarely mumbling more than a few sentences at a time. It's the brooding and determined piece of acting the script demands, and makes me hope Johnson doesn't leave the action genre alone for such an extended time in the future. Gugino (Watchmen) and Thornton (Bad Santa) could tackle their law enforcing roles whilst sleeping, even though Thornton's does encompass a slightly more complex drug addiction subplot. Both thespians churn out reasonable work here, but their talents could probably have been utilized much better elsewhere. On the other hand, Oliver Jackson-Cohen is awful as Killer, the British actor plastering a staggeringly wooden and unconvincing emotional sheen all over the character. The actor rarely changes his expression, and his onscreen relationship with his wife (Maggie Grace, Taken) completely lacks chemistry. It's a disastrous piece of casting, Jackson-Cohen never feeling like a fair adversary for the chunkier and substantially more imposing Johnson.
The screenplay simply rockets Driver from one set-piece to another, director George Tillman handling the action skillfully. However, eventually the writers start trying to get smart, and it's in this department that Faster starts to fall apart. The twisty conclusion is shamefully obvious for at least 15 minutes before it is revealed, ruining the tension that Tillman is desperately trying to concoct. More aggravating is the film's sudden urge to become a supposedly soulful experience, Faster moving away from its enjoyable grindhouse aesthetic to become a sermon on the dangers of living by the sword. This shift in tone damages the movie quite notably, reversing a galloping goodtime into an unintentional bore.
Faster embraces its R-rating, which is a relief, serving up several wild and bloody action sequences. These are stitched into the slight narrative competently, and also have the benefit of being shot coherently and kinetically. The project's redemption comes in the form of its brazen devotion to rampaging violence, along with the fact viewers come to sympathize with Driver's quest. The film is worth a rental at best, but leaving its confusingly misjudged final act aside, Faster is actually a pretty sturdy blast of popcorn entertainment.
This standard-def edition looks and sounds adequate, with an especially strong audio track shining through during the movie's crazier segments. The supplemental material isn't overly inspired, but it does include an intriguing alternate ending. All I'll say is that this other climax must have been expensive to cut, albeit it's even weaker from a storytelling juncture than the film's actual finish. A couple of deleted scenes are also tossed in for good measure, although many are indistinguishable from moments found in the theatrical version.
Not Guilty...just about.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Alternate Ending