Faster strikes me as the kind of movie that was never really intended to be "good", merely a balls to the wall actioner. And while we do get that, along with a nice heap of 70's revenge flick fare, the distilled characterizations don't necessarily make for the most interesting film. But that's not why you'd be going to see it.
If you've bought a ticket for Faster, chances are all you want to see is The Rock kick some ass again. If that's all you were looking for, you might be pretty happy with your purchase. Within the first five minutes alone, you'll be able to witness Dwayne Johnson departing from a 10-year stint in the clink, pick up a sexy muscle car from a nearby junkyard and drive to town to put a bullet in a man's brain. That alone makes up for the last few years of sissy roles in kid films. However, if you like your revenge films a little more meaty and a little less heavy-handed, you may be more than a little disappointed.It's not that the film is boring or slow-paced, as director George Tillman Jr. and writers Tony and Joe Gayton should be commended for how much exposition and character information they've managed to fold into fast-paced action sequences, it's that it's too busy rushing around trying to be an archetypal clash of the titans to really be effective in the way that all of the great revenge films of the past have been. In short, it never gets under your skin, and any attempts at commenting on the human condition come off as overbearing and sophomoric.
Johnson plays a character called only Driver, and is on a mission to hunt down a gaggle of men responsible for killing his brother a decade earlier. While The Rock rose above the rest of the WWE dreck with his trademark charm, it's abandoned here in favor of what barely amounts to speech as Driver targets his prey like a heat-seeking missile. He's not without morals, as he refuses to shoot at a target when some innocent bystanders get in the way, but it's not like he's really looking out for them either, as it would seem he just doesn't want to waste the bullets. Ironically, his character fires more bullets than words spoken throughout the film.
Billy Bob Thornton limps along as Cop, a disgraced police investigator and heroin junkie who's days from retirement and is tasked with tracking down Driver. While Thornton brings some interesting pathos to the mix, most in the form of pity and tragedy, as well as a few startling character twists, it's not enough to alleviate the problems of the rest of the film. And if that wasn't enough to contend with, Tillman and company also threw in a third flip side to Driver's coin in the form of Killer. Played with Jude Law-esque smoothness by newcomer Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Killer is a bored rich kid who moonlights as a hitman because he likes the thrills. And his newly acquired bride (Maggie Grace) shares his fetish for guns, as evidenced when she celebrates her wedding with some good, old-fashioned target practice. Faster might have done fine without this duo, but the addition puts it over the top.
And therein lies the ultimate disappointment. It feels like Faster is grasping at the absurdity of grindhouse legends of the past, but in all its bang-zoom fervor, ultimately forgets to have fun with such flamboyant elements. Part of what was so interesting about those scrappy action revenge flicks was that they had to go all the way in order to earn their bucks. Faster just doesn't quite get there.
Still, there are worse things to see Dwayne Johnson subject himself to. I for one am just happy to see that he's traded in his tutu for a nickel-plated revolver; at least it's a step in the right direction for him. Even though Faster isn't the be-all-end-all amazing return of The Rock as an action hero a lot of people were hoping for, maybe it'll be a good stepping stone for his next round of ass kicking.