Genre: Action/Crime Director: George Tillman Jr Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Maggie Grace, Carla Gugino, Tom Berenger, Moon Bloodgood RunTime: 1 hr 38 mins Released By: Sony Pictures Releasing International Rating: NC-16 (Some Violence) Official Website:http://www.fasterthemovie.com/
Opening Day: 31 March 2011
Synopsis: After 10 years in prison, Driver (Dwayne Johnson) has a singular focus - to avenge the murder of his brother during the botched robbery that led to his imprisonment. Now a free man with a deadly to-do list in hand, he's finally on his mission... but with two men on his trail - veteran cop (Billy Bob Thornton) just days from retirement, and a young egocentric hitman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) with a flair for the art of killing and a newfound worthy opponent. The hunter is also the hunted. It's a do-or-die race to the list's finish as the mystery surrounding his brother's murder deepens, and new details emerge along the way hinting that Driver's list may be incomplete.
When The Rock made a conscious effort to be known as Dwayne Johnson, little did we know it had an impact to his choice of roles, distancing himself from all out action flicks for something more targeted to the young ones such as the family friendly comedy The Game Plan, family friendly science fiction fare Race to Witch Mountain, lending his voice to a family friendly animated piece Planet 51, and yes, going the distance as The Tooth Fairy, which is also, you guessed it, family friendly. His kick-butt persona built from years of WWE has almost all been forgotten, until now.
Faster couldn't have come soon enough actually, taking almost 4 months for it to reach our shores in offering some NC-16 rated action, with nary a flinch from point blank head shots that Dwayne Johnson's character dishes out. His Driver is a man of few words, an ex-con just released from prison, into a second chance in life after miraculously surviving a shooting, and becomes an avenging angel of sorts hell bent on hunting down his brother's murderers in a heist gone awfully wrong some 10 years ago. Time is of the essence, and our man wastes no time in his hunt, hence the tagline associated with the film.
With flicks such as Taken, Man on Fire, Man From Nowhere, Driver dispatches his enemies with urgency and without remorse, very much akin to The Bride in Kill Bill, having a list of names in a manifest to cross out permanently, traversing from point to point thanks to that ride with a beautiful engine purr, a black 70s second generation Chevrolet Chevelle. Sure the villains on his list may seem like cardboard characters especially when he cuts through them like hot knife through butter, and this is recognized by writers Tony and Joe Gayton, to introduce Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), employed by the real mastermind to stop Driver dead in his tracks, and presents a simple mystery into the identity of the one at the top of the hit list.
What I enjoyed about Faster is how the story presents the characters' history without a need to be really verbatim about it. We learn of Driver's ordeal through a series of flashbacks, and Killer's story is told though the use of photographs and magazine covers, about a rich bored kid looking for some covert thrills in his life. Perhaps a little bit off, and also to balance out the machismo oozing from the screen each time the hulking Dwayne Johnson comes on, is that of the romantic moments given to all three male leads, such as what would be a needless scene if not to add a little bit more tragic depth to Driver's incarceration when he pauses to seek out an old lover, Billy Bob Thorton's Cop and his wife going through a strain in their relationship for the former's drug addiction, and Killer's eccentric romance with Lily (Maggie Grace) with whom he is about to marry.
But romantic moments aside, Faster is a typical adrenaline filled action flick starring the cop, the ex-con and the assassin, each with their own objectives to step into one another's crosshairs in their respective pursuit, with Killer and Cop both after Driver who himself is after his list of enemies from 10 years ago, and that too presents itself some dilemma especially when one isn't inherently all bad and evil personified, and you'd wonder whether a grudge borne for a decade already could be dissipated overnight when victims inadvertently start to get a little bit personal and drawing in family as bargaining chips for any form of appeal.
Director George TIllman Jr tackled Driver's roaring rampage without the irritating trending of shooting action with the shaky cam, with the results showing that much of a fresh air as compared to recent action films that fall prey to a populist fad, although indulgence come in the form of fast cars being put thought the paces. Story pacing is kept tight with nice set action pieces set to a pulsating soundtrack (with original music by Clint Mansell!) and a simple mystery running throughout. Depending on your threshold for the near impossible or sheer plot convenience, you may have qualms about the plausibility of certain scenes, or even the narrative with a wanted man boldly walking around, but don't let this detract you from what would be Kill Bill with a lean, mean pistol packing brute replacing the svelte sword wielding vengeful bride.
(The return of the Rock to butt kicking perfection, 'nuff said!)
Review by Stefan Shih