Faster (2010)

Posted: March 7, 2011 in Movies

In George Tillman Jr’s Faster, Dwayne “Disney” Johnson returns to being Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. And thank goodness for that. No one who looks as though they were built by the US military – presumably to deflect missiles; big nuclear ones — should ever be seen babysitting a child (2007’s The Game Plan), or more insultingly, prancing about in fairy wings (2010’s Tooth Fairy). No, The Rock was born to be the man hovering behind the barrel of a gun, his impossibly broad silhouette making darkness out of daylight, his furrowed brow dripping with contempt, and his soul-sapped eyes staring down upon his next victim, ready to pull the trigger.

If that’s the Dwayne Johnson you prefer, then Faster is your movie. It’s unpolished, unoriginal and completely humourless – but it works. There’s a primal intensity, both adrenal and emotional, flowing through Tillman Jr’s frenetic direction and Johnson’s gritty performance that suggests there’s more going on under the hood than the stock fittings let on.

Written by Joe and Tony Gayton (Murder by Numbers, Bulletproof), Faster begins with Johnson’s character, known only as Driver, being released from a 10-year prison sentence. No one’s waiting on the outside to pick him up, but that’s ok; he’s not up for conversation. Driver runs to a nearby caryard, where a black Chevelle awaits. Inside the dash is a list of the people responsible for the death of his brother. There’s also a handgun. You do the math.

Living up to its name, Faster doesn’t pussyfoot around; within a minute, Driver has knocked off one of his targets and is hunting down the next. He doesn’t talk. He doesn’t sleep. He doesn’t even blink. Driver’s humanity is questionable, yet there’s something so mortal, so tragic about Johnson’s numbing gaze. You’ll ask yourself: “did I just catch The Rock crying?”

It’s easily one of Johnson’s most compelling performances, and that’s coming from someone who usually finds the man quite a charismatic force. But this isn’t a one man show; Billy Bob Thornton (Eagle Eye, Bad Santa) is just as excellent as the heroin-addicted Cop assigned to stop Driver’s killing spree. Despite the generic name, Cop is a rounded character; he has a son he rarely sees, and an ex-wife who doesn’t want a piece of him. In this three-way manhunt, Oliver Jackson-Cohe (Going the Distance) plays an obsessive millionaire assassin named only Killer – sensing a pattern? – who has been hired to kill Driver before he can complete his hit-list. Whereas Cop’s backstory adds gravity to his character and the overall narrative, the same can’t be said about Killer’s, whose surreal subplot regarding his adoring wife adding only to the film’s runtime. It slows Faster down.

Most of the time, though, it’s an absolute rush. The usual themes of morality and retribution are tinted grey, where the good guys are just as fallible as the bad guys. It’s violent alright, but not pointlessly so; every time Johnson pulls out his gun – which happens quite a bit – it feels increasingly more momentous than the last. All of a sudden, the film is populated by people, not mere pincushions, whose lives are at stake. It’s a wonder how Tillman Jr. manages to create such tension out of so little, and do so repeatedly.

Faster won’t please everyone – many will dismiss it as too dumb, too derivative and too graphic to entertain or resonate. I almost did myself, but that was before I found myself hoping, desperately, that Driver wouldn’t pull the trigger. That he would see the mistake he was making, and the consequence it would have. And it’s when you start thinking like that in the middle of mindless action film that you start to ponder; just how mindless is it really?

IMDB: Here | Download (AVI): Here

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