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2010-12-03 16:27
What it's about:

Driver (played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), a paroled convict just out of prison, starts to enact swift and bloody vengeance against those responsible for his years-long incarceration and the cold-blooded murder of his brother.

What we thought:

Faster is significantly better than its poster would suggest. A poster, incidentally, that captures everything you really need to know about the film. Allow me to explain. Conveying nothing more than the stoic image of a steely eyed, gun-wielding Dwayne "Don't Call Me The Rock" Johnson, the simple green-and-black-tinged poster could not be more generic. It is a surprisingly honest bit of advertising because that is precisely what you get in the film itself. Faster is a very generic revenge story that largely consists of a Johnson at his most intense, methodically and brutally taking down those who did him wrong. What I didn't expect was a generic revenge story that actually engages; that is more resonant and interesting than it has any right to be.

The biggest and most important asset that the film possesses is in fact Dwayne "He Really Is No Longer The Rock" Johnson. No one would ever accuse him of being a brilliant dramatic actor but Faster proves just how powerful a screen presence he can be, if given the right material. This one sticks well within Johnson's range but allows for a truly hefty performance from the former wrestler. I'm not just talking physically here either. That Johnson cuts an imposing figure isn't really up for debate. His nickname is hardly ill-deserved. The dude's a house – a house made of nothing but big, bulging muscle. But he's a house with actual dramatic weight.

He may not be the next Philip Seymour Hoffman but he's much more than the next Jean-Claude Van Damme. Setting aside the odd, Bruce-Willis-shaped exception, most action stars tend to act with little more than a flexed bicep or a flying-reverse-roundhouse-kick (hey, there's a reason why they're action stars after all) but Johnson has discovered muscles that are far more conducive to actual acting: the ones around his eyes. He doesn't say much and his actions consist largely of punch-em-ups and gun-waving but he somehow, through his eyes alone, manages to convince as a seriously intense force of nature who is clearly afflicted with far more conflicting emotions than his icy exterior might suggest. It's not a brilliant performance but surprisingly subtle and effective nonetheless.

The leading man isn't the only thing that surprises. No, I'm not referring to the underwhelming plot twist and I'm certainly not referring to Billy Bob Thornton's turn as a weird, dishevelled police officer. What comes out of nowhere is the great emotional clout that this film carries on its broad, brooding shoulders. In fact, its greatest failing is that it never has the courage of its convictions to play up to the gritty crime drama that underlies its action and drives its best moments. It instead opts for simple and fairly typical thrills and spills that, while efficiently delivered, are never as absorbing and engrossing as the human drama that lies just below the surface. As is so often the case these days, it is a film that falls between two poles: a fun, silly action thriller on the one side and a dark, absorbing human crime-drama on the other.

It is also a film that is sadly ill-disciplined. We already have the not-really-single-minded intensity of Johnson's character and his thirst for revenge against a long and varied list of potential cannon fodder. On the other side, we have the messy charm of Thornton's character, who not only comes burdened with his own set of problems but with an ex-wife and young son that he never fails to let down and a new partner (played by the always enjoyable Carla Gugino) that doesn't want him. That should be enough of a foundation for a good crime story, surely? Why then do they feel the need to add a third lead, an independent hit man who has a complicated relationship with his girlfriend and a history of physical deformity? It's not a bad part by any means, it's just completely superfluous.

All of this adds up to a film that can simply be summed up as: "it's surprisingly good but...", a tension that lies right at the heart of Faster's respectable but underwhelming 3 star rating. It's not as bad as it constantly threatens to be but it's never as good as its best moments suggest it should be, either. 

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson brings his unmistakable screen presence to a generic revenge story that's more resonant and interesting than it has any right to be.

Andrew 2010/12/06 11:52 AM
He was also brilliant in 'Be Cool' playing the gay bodyguard.
Debs 2011/03/17 3:42 PM
  • Rating:
another one 4rm the rock....ooohhhh this z smthg 2 watch
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