Theatrical Review: Faster

This one took me by surprise. Based on it’s initial promotion, I thought Faster was going to be something entirely different than what it’s final product is turns out to be. I think this one is going to be passed on by a lot of people and it’s a shame if it is.

We’re introduced to a man called simply Driver. He’s just been released from a ten-year stretch in prison and he’s hell-bent on revenge. The Driver leaves prison with no one to meet him and he runs to a nearby junkyard. There he collects several things; a super-fast muscle car, a gun and instructions on where to find a certain man. The Driver quickly goes to the destination, an office building, and like a primal force of nature, kills his target in cold blood in front of many witnesses. But he’s not done yet…

This catches the attention of another man, known simply as the Cop. The Cop is a burned out detective with just days to go before his retirement and he finds himself drawn to help in catching this man, the Driver.

As the Driver’s killing spree continues, a third man gets involved. Known simply as the Killer, he’s an assassin for hire who does what he does now after a life of over-achievement. Killing is something that he does because he’s bored with everything else in his life, and doing this makes him alive.

Eventually the paths of all three cross in some very interesting ways, but that’s for you to discover how.

By the promotion that I saw for this movie and it’s title, I was expecting Faster to be something much more conventional though I was still looking forward to it. It had been too long since seeing The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) in a straight-up action movie after having made many lighter-flavored films designed to increase his audience visibility. I thought I was going to get something here that was going to be some sort of cross between a movie like The Rundown (which I loved) with the The Fast & The Furious (which I also loved).

What I got… well, I’d describe it in terms like this: this is what you’d get if you gave a Garth Ennis-scripted crime movie (to comic book fans, Ennis is best known for his astounding work on Vertigo’s Preacher) to a director with heavy duty Walter Hill leanings (who also has just a touch of John Woo’s Hong Kong days). It could also be described as a more straight-up version of Quentin Tarnatino’s KIll Bill movies. The final result is a fast-paced, hard-boiled crime movie that’s loaded with depth and context. While there are a lot of elements to this movie, you don’t get lost in it and all makes sense in the end. This isn’t as action-packed as the trailer promises and so I could see this as a minus to some viewers, but I was more than satisfied with most of the film’s other elements.

My only criticism is that the end is all too abrupt. Oh, it does make sense in the end, but there should’ve been more. There was one more character tied into these events that should’ve been seen in the finale- which in turn, could’ve lead to setting another character on the same path that the Driver finds himself on. I’m sorry to be vague with this, but really I don’t want to spoil this.

It’s ending does hurt it, but it’s not a total loss by any means. Faster is extremely well-acted, beautifully shot and made (this is my first experience with a movie directed by George Tillman Jr.), and it kept me on my toes all the way to the end, it’s just that the end should’ve been even more than what it was.

Ever since seeing Dwayne Johnson in The Rundown, well, I’ve been a big fan. I certainly appreciate what his years as a wrestler have given him when it comes to his acting chops. One of the nicest things about The Rundown was one of it’s opening scenes where a cameo appearance from Arnold Schwarzenegger literally passes the torch of “big action star” down to Johnson. While I don’t think his successive movies have quite stacked up, he’s still been good in them, though I have to admit, I haven’t been attracted to his recent string of more family fare films. I get why he’s done them, but I’ve wanted to see him come back to something harder and with Faster he has. While the Driver might be seen as a simple character on the surface, there are a couple of scenes here which aptly explain his single-minded purpose and considering that background, it’s easy to see why he’s as hell-bent as he is. Johnson’s definitely an imposing figure just by his pure physique, but what really works for him here is his eyes. The intensity and inner conflict shown there, just sells this character totally.

Billy Bob Thornton plays the Cop and he has “burn-out” written all over him for the part. In his own way, he’s just as driven as the Driver, but instead of revenge, he wants to correct his mistakes and on the surface, his going after the Driver seems like his way to do so. Thornton’s money in the bank with this part, helping to ground this movie. There’s a scene in the movie where the Cop first comes face-to-face with the Driver and it’s as powerful a scene as any I’ve seen in movies. A lot of that power is due to Thornton and his willingness to be ready to accept what he thinks his fate is going to be.

Oliver Jackson-Cohen plays the Killer and he sort of comes off to me a s a British version of Jake Gyllenhaal. The Killer is the odd man out in this piece. Seemingly out of place in comparison to the events around the Driver and the Cop, his function here is to serve as the total opposite of what the Driver does. He’s conquered every bit of adversity he’s ever faced in life and come out on top to such a point where it’s all pointless now and so he does what he does out of boredom more than anything else. With the Driver though, he’s found someone who’s literally faster (hence the title) than he is, and so his challenge is made. Jackson-Cohen does a nice job with the part, he’s arrogant but has his own depth.

The cast is rounded out with some nice support from Carla Gugino, Moon Bloodgood, Jennifer Carpenter, and Maggie Grace. All serve functions of setting up the men that they’re in support of (Gugino and Bloodgood for Thornton, Carpenter for Johnson and Grace for Jackson-Cohen). Their scenes are short (with the exception of Gugino who fares better with her screen time) but the support is top drawer. Even better though is Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (who you’ll know as Mr. Eko from Lost or Adebisi from Oz) who plays the last person on the Driver’s “to kill” list. Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s scene with Johnson near the end of the film is about as powerful as it gets.

As I said, Faster took me by surprise. While expecting something way more conventional, what i got was a sincere and hard-edged crime movie loaded with depth and detail. I don’t expect it to do well as far as the box office is concerned, though I do hope that eventually people discover this down the road. While it’s ending wasn’t what I wanted it to be (though it still works), I expect that this movie will get even better for me with repeated viewings later on. If you want to see Dwayne Johnson doing something harder-edged, then Faster is certainly worth your time, the marketing just betrays what this film really is. Very much recommended.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

28. November 2010 by Darren Goodhart
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