DIR: George Tillman Jr. • WRI: Tony Gayton, Joe Gayton • PRO: Tony Gayton, Liz Glotzer, Martin Schafer, Robert Teitel • DOP: Michael Grady • ED: Dirk Westvelt • DES: David Lazan • CAST: Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Carla Gugino, Maggie Grace, Tom Berenger, Moon Bloodgood, Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje
Medium Paced doesn’t quite have the same ring to it now does it? If ever a there was a movie that could and damn well should have lived up it’s title, it’s Faster. Several exciting sequences surrounded by often banal exposition, Dwayne Johnson’s return to the action genre after over half a decade slumming in generic Disney kiddies fare blasts out of the gate initially only to lose momentum due to a top heavy script and often heavyhanded direction.
Johnson plays the aptly named Driver because well, he drives cars in bank heists. After a stint in prison, our taciturn, tattooed badass gets down to business from the get go and sets out to avenge his brothers death and administer some payback to the scumbags who double crossed him and left him for dead. This is man who means business, has little time for small talk and means business.
The opening reel promises an effective, stripped down B-movie ride with a hint of existentialism. As with Driver, other characters have one name and very little backstory and they are all defined by their actions. In the hands of Walter Hill let’s say, this could have been an excellent genre exercise and though director George Tillman Jr. tries his best he is left hobbled by Tony and Joe Gayton’s excessive screenplay.
After Driver delivers some vigilante justice, making the news he is soon pursued by Cop (Billy Bob Thorton) who true to genre conventions is near retirement, estranged from his wife and kids but here’s the twist, is also a heroin addict. Now, Thorton is a splendid actor and a welcome addition to any film but the film-makers then decide to throw another character into the mix.
Portrayed by Handsome Young Brit Actor Cat. No 47, Oliver Jackson Cohen, Killer is some kind of super amazing highly skilled assassin, a devilishly charming, rich and handsome dude for whom becoming a top level assassin is just another achievement to tick off of his list of Self Improvement 101 along with yoga and adventure sports. He is hired by a mysterious benefactor to off Driver.
Now, if Killer had stayed in the shadows a la Clive Owen in The Bourne Identity, that would have been fine but we also get a whole lot of bland, gooey scenes with him and his pretty plank of a girlfriend played by Taken’s Maggie Grace and Tillman goes overboard on the slick, car ad visuals as he shows us Killers enviously lavish lifestyle.
All this serves to do is distract us from the chief pleasure of watching Mr Johnson’s glower and crack skulls and slows the film to a halt. Worse still, it appears that Jackson-Cohens smug character was invented simply as a showcase that was suggested to studio executives and to Faster’s writing team by a persuasive agent.
Aside from this superfluous plot, there are problems scriptwise as we learn too much about Johnson and Thorton’s characters as the story progresses and explanations are filtered through banal dialogue stripping it of any ambiguity and mystery. As the film limps to its contrived finale, it’s clear that a combination of slack directing, editing and acting (Are you listening Carla Gugino?) almost conspire to completely ruin what should have been a short, brutal, entertaining genre exercise.
The enterprise is salvaged by Dwayne Johnson’s granite like presence in the lead role. He sees this characters redemptive journey through with righteous conviction and determined focus. He is tightly wound, implacable and compelling to watch throughout.
Now, if only the film surrounding him had followed suit.
Derek Mc Donnell
IFCO website for details)
Faster is released on 25th March 2011