Reel Action: Faster (2010), starring Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, and Maggie Grace.

Faster (2010)
Rating: 2.5 out of 4

Tagline: Slow Justice is No Justice.

Directed by: George Tillman Jr.

THE PLAN: The Rock stars as Driver, a man recently released from prison and is bent on revenging the death of his bank robbing brother. He’ll go to any lengths to kill folks no matter who they are or where they are (even during surgery!) In his path stands a druggie cop (Billy Bob) and a rich boy hit man with mental issues.

THE KILL: I remember when Faster came out, and it was billed as the film that would finally solidify Johnson as the king of action. That this was going to be old school throwback action. Maybe even the caliber that would make us forget about Arnold and company. Ok, so maybe no one claimed it would do that, but let’s face it, everyone expected the Rock to carry the torch of the action superstar, which at this point seems impossible because the guy doesn’t really make action flicks. And besides, no one has been able to pick up the mantel (unless you count Statham) to carry on what dudes in their 60s still do.

Anyway, when Johnson made the leap to movies, he seemed most posed to accomplish this feat of strength, but his career choices have been…safe. It’s like he’s afraid to push things too far, to do something daring. I mean, why wasn’t he in something like Predators, or the Terminator, or something where he gets his hands a little dirty? Arnold played stupidly violent characters and he became governor, so I don’t think it’ll hurt a career or anything.

Mr. Johnson doesn't like it when you call him a Rock.

But Faster was supposed to make us think of Johnson as the action star, and in many ways, it did that. This is a mean, brutal movie filled with vengeance, death, and not so positive attitudes (looking at you, Rock). Johnson tries his damnedest to erase all hints of a personality, keeping a scowl firmly in place. He looks the part, but perhaps he’s done one too many kids movies now because its tough buying not only buying him, but his character too. Besides, if you’re as gigantic as Johnson, wouldn’t he probably be the muscle and not just the driver during a bank robbery? Can he turn his arms fast enough or do the muscles not impede steering ability?

Anyway, the one element that doesn’t work here is the bad guys killing bad guys angle. Now I love gangster films, always one of my favorite genres, and those films always have bad on bad crime. But this movie feels like they I should care more about the Rock and what he’s doing. Sure, he’s pissed and wants blood, but his character is kinda flat. I don’t care enough to justify the killing streak, especially when there’s a whole conspiracy angle that tries a bit too hard.

Billy Bob Thornton stars as the cop, and he’s always been one of my favorite actors but at times, dude really seems to phone it in. Here, he just is kinda there as a junky cop who can’t keep his shit together. He finally tries to get clean and goes to his wife for help, who ends up od-ing on his stash. Oh and they have a pudgy kid who only wants to feel loved and sucks at baseball. Hard to feel much for a family that f*cked up. It’s ok to make a dirty cop all strung out, but his wife too? Druggies aren’t exactly the most sympathetic characters, and it’d be nice to have something normal to balance the death in film.

Speaking of unsympathetic characters, the killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) could be one of the dumbest villains ever created. Not only is he a hateable douche, but he’s extremely wealthy, seemingly spoiled, and has hot Maggie Grace hanging around (who does nothing in this movie but wear skimpy outfits – not a complaint). Oh, and the killer has mental issues which aren’t really explained. Faster tries way too hard to make him feel original, but he just became that snobby rich kid that everyone hated.

Maggie looks like she's ready to be taken...

Faster has it’s moments, but the action isn’t as badass as I hoped. He shoots or stabs everyone, and doesn’t really mix it up. He mostly stalks his prey, which leaves actual action waiting in the car. The whole production feels too clean, too crisp to feel as dirty as it wants to be. I want to embrace Johnson as the next ultimate badass, but he’s has a ways to go until any of us care.

TOP ACTION: The flashback sequence where Driver outruns a fleet of cops – in reverse – is pretty intense and actually wish they had more moments like it. In a movie called Faster and starring a guy named Driver, you’d think there’d be more car chases.

TOP DEATH: Lots of folks get dead, but the opening scene where Driver walks into a business and plugs a gun in cold blood is pretty jarring. Perhaps not the most inventive, but it sets the tone.

TOP DIALOGUE: Not a lot of funny lines, but The Rock does drop some knowledge: “You don what you need to do. But you better be sure, cause that’s a long, dark road you’re headed down.

HOMOEROTIC MOMENT: Well, Johnson takes out a dude in the men’s room…

FEMALE EXPLOITATION: Maggie Grace doesn’t have much to do in the film but look really hot in a bikini and a very lovely wedding dress.

DRINKING GAME: Every time The Rock kills a dude take a drink or he will hunt you down.

TRIVIA: The Rock’s first straight action flick since Doom, if you don’t count the Rundown or Journey 2.

So this is where I put my action career.



Extra Tidbit: The Arrow loves Faster. Do you?



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