PLOT: An ex-con (The Rock) goes after his brothers killers, all the while being hunted by a dogged, heroin-addicted cop (Bill Bob Thorton), and a hit man (Oliver Jackson-Cohen).
REVIEW: FASTER is Dwayne The Rock Johnsons long-awaited return to the action genre. Now, when I say long-awaited, I mean LONG AWAITED. For the last few years, Johnsons been in nothing but cookie-cutter Disney crap like THE GAME PLAN, ESCAPE FROM WITCH MOUNTAIN, and gulp, THE TOOTH FAIRY. I think its pretty safe to say that while this trilogy of terror may not have destroyed his career, its badly damaged whatever credibility as an action star he was able to establish with THE RUNDOWN, which for my money, is still his only really effective film.
But is FASTER worth the wait? Im sorry to say that while FASTER is indeed an R-rated, hard-core piece of work, its deeply flawed. The biggest problem is that, despite being billed as a starring vehicle for Johnson, hes off-screen for at least half of the film. This is all well and good when were focusing on Thortons deeply clichéd character (Drug addict? Check. Ten days to retirement? Check! Angry ex-wife and ignored kid? Check!), as Thorntons at least playing a somewhat intriguing guy.
The big problem is Oliver Jackson-Cohen. Havent heard the name before? Well, youre not the only one, as other than a stint on British TV, all hes done is play a bartender in Drew Barrymores latest, GOING THE DISTANCE. Now, Im not saying a more recognizable face was needed for the role. No, Cohens fine. Its just that hes so damn unnecessary. Two protagonists is more than enough for this kind of film, and the problem is compounded by the fact that the filmmakers never give us a handle on the character. Early scenes establish that hes (get this) a billionaire software developer turned professional hit man. Yup, you read that right.
His actions are justified by the fact that he was a sickly child whos rebuilt himself into a model of physical and mental perfection, in need of a challenge. So, he kills people. Sounds like a sociopath, right? Well, no- as the film tries to portray him as the clichéd hit man with a heart of gold, and to that extent they even give him a pretty girlfriend, played by Maggie Grace. Suffice to say, his character plays like something out of a parody, and takes the attention away from the guy whos supposed to be the star.
As for Johnson, well, thats another problem. He doesnt really get much to do here but look mean, grunt, and shoot people, but I guess he does that well enough. Another huge problem is that, for an R-rated action film, the action sucks. Theres not a single memorable action scene, as all Johnson gets to do is shoot a handful of people. For my money, if you cast a guy as physical as The Rock in the role, you better give him a decent fight scene or two, but other than a brief scuffle, we get nothing.
I suppose this comes from the fact that director George Tillman seems determined to make this more than an action flick, but the pretentious script by Tony & Joe Gayton cant keep up with his ambition. It seems like he was trying to make an American version of a Johnnie To film, but the screenplay plays out like a KILL BILL rip-off (complete with a death list The Rock crosses off after each killing), mixed with a few stunningly wrong-headed choices. Particularly pretentious is the fact that our three leads are known as Driver (Johnson), Cop (Thorton), and Killer (Cohen), which I suppose is supposed to be a play on archetypes, but comes off as ridiculously precious.
That said, not everything about FASTER is bad. Thorton manages to keep his dignity throughout (I dont think Ive ever seen him give a bad performance), and its still good to see Johnson back in action mode. Carla Gugino also has a nice supporting role as Thorntons cop-boss, and shes quite effective mouthing the hard-boiled dialogue. The other female characters, as played by Moon Bloodgood (as Thortons ex), and Jennifer Carpenter (as Johnsons ex-flame) dont fare nearly as well.
The jurys still out whether or not FASTER is going to be Johnsons ticket to the action A-list, which is territory he wasnt able to crack prior to his Disney detour. Hes about a burly as hes ever been, and Im sure that given the right vehicle he could deliver, but for my money, FASTER aint it.
|Extra Tidbit:||I REALLY wanted to like this film.|