A blog about movies and filmmaking.

FASTER Needs Just A Little More Slo-Mo

In action on November 23, 2010 at 2:19 am

So, Dwayne Johnson. He started out as “The Rock” – no not Alcatraz, dummy, the wrestler – was handed the keys to all action filmdom by the king himself (Schwarzenegger passed the torch, in a way, in 2003’s THE RUNDOWN.) and has since not entirely lived up to what might have been expected for him. He’s varied in quality of project from action franchise hopefuls (THE SCORPION KING, DOOM) to family movies (THE TOOTH FAIRY and RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN), but with FASTER; it’s a step back to his domain. Granted it’s still not quite in the vein of an Arnold picture like COMMANDO or THE RUNNING MAN – it’s much more in the realm of Mel Gibson’s PAYBACK or POINT BLANK with Lee Marvin. In fact, FASTER is very much like those movies – nearly identically so. 

The story is about a man who we’re only told is called “Driver”. He’s getting out of prison – pacing in anticipation of his freedom – so he can exact revenge on the group of men that killed his brother and left Driver for dead. The opening minutes – actually pretty much the entire movie – is just Johnson lumbering forward to fulfill his goal. He marches out of prison (his first words in the movie are, “where’s the exit?”), to his new Super Sport, finds the gun under the seat and the name of his first victim. Who is promptly murdered by Driver, in front of an entire office of coworkers and video surveillance. Then he marches on.

Joining in on the fun are two cops made to work together (Carla Gugino and Billy Bob Thornton, as the begrudging partners), and try to stop the man before he kills more people. They fail. They manage to squeeze in the tiniest of subplots for Thornton’s character – mainly because there has to be some character to off-set the obvious direction he’ll go in later. (Hope that’s not too spoilery. But, it’s really painfully obvious from the first moment you see him on-screen scoring heroin.)

Anyway, the point of this movie isn’t the actual story. It’s an R-rated movie about blind vengeance. Driver sets out on his mission, willing to take on anyone that gets in his way – including an oddly wedged in assassin played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen (GOING THE DISTANCE) and his girlfriend, Maggie Grace. The kills are brutal, but never too gory. Just cold and matter-of-fact. Part of the fun, I guess if you can call it that, are the settings that Driver has to dispatch his prey. There’s the aforementioned office; a club; a hospital (which was particularly great); and a church.

Not to drag the review out too long – because honestly, the movie is pretty terrible. The plot and characters are mostly ridiculous. The assassin (who’s named “Killer”) is introduced by “beating yoga” – meaning he can do push-ups while in a down-ward facing dog/lotus position. Thornton’s married to Moon Bloodgood (one of the most beautiful women in the world) and together they some how created a pudgy, undescript white kid. Within the movie – whose score is credited to Clint Mansell (MOON, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM) – most of the music is oddly self-aware nods to movies that have almost no relation to the concept of FASTER. (A key, and hilarious moment is when “I Just Dropped In” plays while a certain character is high. In case you don’t recognize the name of the song, it’s from one of the dream-sequences from THE BIG LEBOWSKI when The Dude is bowled between women’s legs.)

But, I give the movie props for being the slightest bit entertaining. Which, I lay firmly in the hands of Johnson and Thornton; who are both imminently watchable. Sure most of Johnson’s charm is left at the starting gate for the movie – while being intimidating he also has one of the brightest smiles in all of Hollywood, which he doesn’t flash once here – but he’s still engaging. Even with his paltry 5 lines of dialogue. (I might be over-estimating how much he talks.) Thornton, on the other hand plays a watered down version of his BAD SANTA and other various drugged out, jerk-off roles.

Let it be known that there are a couple of cuss-words in the movie, but seemingly the R-rating comes from the effect of the violence. Which isn’t too over the top, and in most cases is actually quite subdued.

So, what am I saying; watch it or don’t? I’m really kind of saying not to see it. But, since I’m writing about it – it’s not all bad. I spent a lot of the time shaking my head at the ridiculousness, but there’s also some moments that surprised me and made it not as bad as other CBS FILMS productions have been. (They made the other “classics” EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES and THE BACK UP PLAN from earlier this year.) There’s certainly other, much better movies to see (THE NEXT THREE DAYS comes to mind), but you also might enjoy FASTER enough to not completely hate yourself for paying to see it.

The main thing to take from the movie is that hopefully Dwayne Johnson will be gracing us with more action movies, because he has the stature to pull it off; and he’s just the kind of guy that I want to see graced with better material. He’s currently in the upcoming fifth movie in the FAST AND THE FURIOUS series – called FAST FIVE (sigh), and the sequel to JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, called JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND. (Oh dear.) Please someone get him some good scripts.

I hear they’re planning to remake TOTAL RECALL…Maybe not.

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