Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Faster (2010)

“Slow justice is no justice” goes the tagline for the movie Faster, the latest vehicle for action star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. And if that’s true, then Faster offers very little in terms of “justice”… or anything pertaining to entertainment, for that matter.

Directed by George Tillman Jr. (Notorious, Men of Honor), the flick kicks off with Johnson’s “Driver” character pacing back and fourth in his jail cell, a literally caged animal. Today is the day of his release, and after a brief meeting in which the warden informs us that Driver is not a man to be reckoned with, the animal is out the door into the desert, where he is greeted by… nobody. So he starts running, and he runs and he runs until he finds his car, and then he drives to an office building, pulls a gun, walks in and shoots a man in the head. And we’re off…

And then we’re stopped, stalled out with Billy Bob Thornton’s skeezy “Cop”, and then cooling our heels with Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s “Killer”, a rich man with dashing good looks, a model wife (Maggie Grace) and an addiction to success. And right about here we begin to realize that Faster is not the streamlined, action-packed vigilante thriller it promised to be.

In reality, Faster is a sermon about addiction – to vengeance, to drugs, to money, to thrills, etc. It’s a self-serious, self-aggrandizing contemplation of sin. That story’s just fine when in the hands of a director like David Fincher. And to be fair, Tillman Jr. does what he can with it. But his film is sloppy cinema in faulty packaging.

 The problem is in the script, from brothers Tony and Joe Gayton, i.e. the men individually responsible for Murder by Numbers (2002) and Bullet Proof (1996), respectively. Faster plays as a blend of those talents, and a continuation of their mediocrity. There are a lot of interesting ideas in here, including a cool but predictable conspiracy theory and an odd “natural born killers” approach to a subplot. Individually, and under better guidance, these could be strong stories. But in Faster it all adds up to a jumbled, boring mess… which is pretty much the opposite of a streamlined action thriller.

Still, the film’s over-complication is only a symptom of its overall ailment – this is an identity crisis, a film that doesn’t know what it is, and thus tries its hand at everything. And as such it suffers, not from its desire to be important, but from its inability to accomplish that goal. Faster is a film you just can’t take seriously.

It strips Dwayne Johnson of his natural charisma and asks him to emote, to which he responds with a very convincing ode to the mentally handicapped.

It asks Billy Bob Thornton to find humanity in his character’s quirkiness, and instead he comes off as alien.

And it asks us to buy into the strength and importance of its message, and instead we receive it with a groan. We didn’t come here for false prophets. We came here for action. And Faster fails to deliver.

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