Directed by: George Tillman Jr.
When a movie’s hero, or in this case anti-hero gets shot in the head twice and yet still survives you’d ordinarily assume that the film isn’t much cop. ‘Farfetched’ would be an apt term to use. I realize I’ve let out a massive spoiler here. But really, who is even curious enough to watch this movie apart from Action Junkies and immature teenage lads with a spare fiver in their pocket who lurk outside CeX?
‘Faster’ undoubtedly contains Dwayne Johnson’s best acting performance, yet still it feels that he has been horribly miscast in his role as the ‘Driver’. The back story of the Driver doesn’t seem to call for a muscle bound behemoth, but instead you’d imagine a cranky, desperate anti-hero fuelled by a desire for vengeance who has suffered and stewed in prison and looks like he hasn’t slept for months or eaten a ninety nine percent protein diet would fit the role better. It is the intriguing story that fuels this film, and keeps you engaged enough to persevere, even after the film’s toe curling opening scene as the Driver leaves prison.
Johnson has now been making movies for a decade, and it could be argued that he has underachieved, not managing to become a break-out action star. It says a great deal that he is nowhere near Stallone’s ‘Expendables’ franchise. When he was known as ‘The Rock’ it was evident during his time with the WWF/WWE that he had enough charisma to make it in Hollywood, and succeed where several other pro wrestlers had failed. However he’s also put his name to a great deal of film fluff which has tainted his reputation. Unfairly considered as nothing more than a lump of moving muscle by most critics, many who’ve reviewed this film have missed Johnson’s new found ability to show some on screen emotion, and the fact that he does should be applauded.
Discounting the opening of the movie because of its share ridiculousness, the Driver turns up at a shady Private Investigators office; he is given a list of several names and addresses. These are significant to the Driver because they are all connected to the murder of his brother. Time has passed whilst the Driver has served his prison sentence, and all of the gang members are now living ‘normal’ lives, working ordinary jobs, or even have retired from work altogether. One by one the Driver pays each of them a visit.
There’s a twist, one of the gang members is now a Cop, and this man played by Billy Bob Thornton knows that the Driver is hell bent on revenge, so he hires a hitman referred to as the ‘Killer’ to intercept the Driver. The Killer is a suave, very wealthy English businessman who kills for sport. The Cop is a flaky drug addict who is trying to rebuild his fractured family.
Each and every one of the key players in ‘Faster’ has issues, except for the investigating officer who partners the crooked Cop who goes by the name as Cicero. It’s hard to believe that this role was very close to going to Salma Hayek, because her dominant bosom distracting acting style would have ruined the film. Carla Gugino instead works well, playing it serious, as the straight laced good cop to Billy Bob Thornton’s bad Cop.
Yes, I acknowledge that this film is flawed, but there is enough weirdness on display to keep the viewer hooked. I was particularly taken with Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s odd turn as Killer. Who appears to be the director’s deus ex machina, his duel with the Driver is a film within a film and I’d like to believe that he’s actually a figment of everybody’s imagination. My theory is that because Driver is delirious, hate filled and irrationally looking to violently kill, everything he experiences is distorted which includes his interactions with the Killer. The Cop is a drug addict and could be seeing things that aren’t really there when under the influence and the young girl who witnesses the Driver kill the old paedo had been drugged, and though she identified two gunmen in the apartment complex when going through her ordeal, she probably only saw one. Nobody is really seeing the Killer because he doesn’t exist. Although, thinking about it, what I’ve just said is probably a load of nonsense.
‘Faster’ is an update of a seventies revenge flick, and though flashy and in many ways an exhibition of style over substance. Johnson’s green shoots of acting ability and a solid supporting cast make ‘Faster’ surpassingly watchable.