Review: Dwayne Johnson's Faster Hits With a Dull, Metallic Thud

November 27, 2010

Dwayne Johnson's Faster

The moment first came in 2003's The Rundown -- a fun, cool, and not wholly unintelligent action movie -- Dwayne Johnson, formerly World Wrestling Entertainment's "The Rock", enters a nightclub on the hunt for someone he means business with. As he walks across the dance floor, he passes a familiar face, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who gives him a casual glance and an even more casual "good luck." That was it. The action star torch had been passed. Seven years later, Johnson's action prowess has been called into question by films like The Game Plan and Tooth Fairy. Now, at least for a little while, he has the chance to make a claim for that title once handed to him by the Terminator himself.

With Faster, Johnson shoots, punches, stabs, and walks with a purpose. Not exactly the most narratively clever or dramatically nuanced film, it makes no qualms about what it is going to be, a hard-driven, muscle car of a movie that doesn't much hold your interest when the plot is progressing. It does, however, put bullet to brain with unabashed style. That is, when it actually decides to put that bullet to brain. Hint: it seems to hold a lot back.

Johnson plays Driver, a man just out of jail. During the film's opening credits we see the scarred and tattooed Driver, neck as thick as a tree trunk, jogging from prison, going to a junk yard, and finding his Chevelle and leather coat, because every badass needs a Chevelle and a leather coat. We then see Driver travel to a small business, go inside, walk up to a very specific man, and put a bullet through his head. This begins a series of murders, some cold-blooded, with Driver's hand on the trigger or knife, and someone who has wronged him in the past on the other end of it.

What we discover about Driver over the course of the film humanizes him, puts an emotion and a purpose within his character, but in those early moments, Driver, complete with the anxious walk and determined scowl Johnson brings to the table, is a great white shark. He only has one purpose, to take revenge on those who have harmed him in the past. And, just like that shark, when the moment comes, when his target is in his sites, he doesn't hesitate. There's no feeling. No remorse. There is only a moment of violence before the attacker leaves.

Tony and Joe Gayton, the screenwriters on Faster, don't allow the film to be that straight-forward from beginning to end, though. In addition to Driver, we are introduced to Cop and Killer, two men who find themselves in a race to either catch or kill Driver before his path of destruction is followed through. Each of these secondary characters is given their own story. Hardly any of the characters are one-dimensional, and this ends up being both an asset and a curse to the film.

When we first meet Cop, played with the perfect mixture of sleaze and stubbornness by Billy Bob Thornton, he is scoring heroin in a bathroom. He's your typical stereotype when it comes to this kind of character, even going so far as claiming he has “10 days to retirement.” Stereotype or not, the screenwriters attempt something different with him in the course of his pursuit of Driver. Predictable as it may be, you have to give credit for the attempt at the very least.

Killer, on the other hand, is a character whose story isn't so much a predictable one as it is an odd and almost uninteresting one. He's played with cool and focus by Oliver Jackson-Cohen, and, sure, he somewhat falls into the typical hitman role, the guy who wants to take one more job before he, too, retires from the business. However, the relationship that is built between he and Maggie Grace's Lily isn't particularly predetermined. Sadly, of all the character in Faster, especially the main three, it is Killer's that falls the flattest in the film's closing moments. It just seemed like the screenwriters weren't really sure what to do with him, so they ended up doing very little.

There is a lot of missed opportunity found throughout Faster. Part of that goes with the territory of Driver being such a focused and determined killer. There is little preamble in his actions, even less lingering around when the action really does kick in. There are only a few out-and-out gunfights in Faster, but director George Tillman Jr. incorporates enough grit and grain, bang and blast to make those moments resonate a bit more than the standard, plasticized action pieces in high supply.

Between Faster's general premise, its seemingly unstoppable lead, and that style Tillman brings to the table gives the film an almost exploitation feel, a film with action pieces made of practical metal instead of the CG pliancy that seems to be the marrow of so many action films these days. For this alone, Faster has somewhat of an upper hand in today's world of buoyant action.

The predictability, hokey side plots, and lingering down time that keeps the intensity from every building to any degree are certainly issues that have to be addressed, though. There was a much better version of Faster that could have been made. It's evident in the actions that don't take place, in the fights, shootouts, and car chases that seem to have been left on the cutting room floor.

Johnson, as charismatic as he can be underneath all that muscle and disquieted determination, is perfect for these types of roles. Thornton and Jackson-Cohen do a fine job keeping up with the film's protagonist, even if Thornton's story arc is highly predictable and Jackson-Cohen's just seems to meander on the sidelines until the fourth quarter.

That fourth quarter, though, seems to be riddled with just as much missed opportunity as the rest of the film. Bullets fly, people's heads blow out, easily figured left turns are revealed with grand expression, and everything lands with a dull thud. Granted, that thud is metal on metal, and the clang that resonates from it lets us know just how practical and edged Faster is underneath its surface. Sadly, that clang isn't particularly loud, and the idea of what could have been gets kicked up with the dust as that muscle car drives off into the sunset.

Jeremy's Rating: 5.5 out of 10

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Saw it on Thursday. As a Rock fan, it was nice to see Dwayne back in true action form, but at the same time, it's also like a day late and a dollar short to me. It's kinda like how Jeremy said, once you have "Ah-nuld" himself give you the official co-sign to carry the torch and you DON'T deliver..Dwayne in a way ruined that moment in time where he could've REALLY did his thing. But Faster was aight I guess for a weekend flick... 3/5.

Big Boss on Nov 27, 2010


duh? he's a terrible actor at least arnold could act with a bad accent. this guy can't even act at all

josh on Nov 27, 2010


careful josh Arnold wasn't that good of an actor, only three movies with him were good. its good to see Johnson back in the action role, so I'll rent it for sure.

Xerxex on Nov 27, 2010


Once again Im calling upon Southland tales to defend ole Dwayne, the most misunderstood acting performance Ive ever seen. Hes a great fucking dramatic actor he just needs to get paired with a director who knows what the fuck hes doing.

Cody w on Nov 28, 2010


The Rock oozed confidence and absolute control of the moment. His charisma was off the charts no matter whos side he was on. Dwayne Johnson, for some reason, just hasn't been the same. I think it may be from taking those family comedy roles too soon. You have to make a Predator before you get a pass with a Jingle All the Way.

Mark D on Nov 28, 2010


Wow Jeremy. This is a really well written review from beginning to end. I especially loved the intro. Keep up the good work. On the other hand, I still don't plan on watching this unless it's available on instant play. I actually like Johnson. His hits and misses don't balance out, but neither did Arnold's films. I say if he wants to earn more credibility as the new Arnold, we need to see him in more sci-fi. He only seems to want to play stories grounded in reality though.

Eli on Nov 28, 2010


i was a fan of the rock before, and im a fan of dwayne now. tho i think its weird people are separating that out. i still see his charisma shine through on many occasions. enough to not think of them as two different entities. #5 has a point about making a badass movie before the corny stuff, but to hell with that. no matter order, lets not forget that arnold did the silly stuff aplenty. #2 arnold cannot act, but he is still oddly enjoyable to watch. dwayne has acting talent in spades, im with #4 on this one.

Ace on Nov 28, 2010


I read an article last week where Johnson said about his "Expendables 2" offer: "It all depends on the material!". I'm interested in seeing whether the material will actually matter after seeing the box office receipts for this movie, which is clearly a bomb! I'll be sure to place this film in my Netflix queue!

Blue Silver on Nov 28, 2010


His performance in Southland Tales is vastly underrated.

Xerxex on Nov 28, 2010


i'm biased when adding my feedback to this so please people, don't hate too hard. i thought this film was VERY good. the rock's actions films usually are (he was great in 'be cool' as well). it was a basic film w/ a basic plot. no real surprises. you can even guess that BBT was behind all of this mess when he was at the hospital (at least i did, because what use was he in this movie). the hitman, ummm, well, i'm confused as to his involvement as he was not any factor. him changing his life for this last job, i didn't get. but at least he was cool. as for the rock's character himself, him being pissed and getting his revenge was awesome no matter what. going back to the hospital to finish the job was, just, awesome. you can't judge the film too much. i'm sure even the makers of this film expected a low turnout. just watch it and have fun.

Jared L on Nov 28, 2010


The Rock/Dwayne can act and he is underrated! I thought he was good in the Scorpion King and even better in Get Smart. If you really want to see him stretch his dramatic abilities, I'd say check him out in Gridiron Gang, he was great in that role, I've never seen Arnold do something or anything as dramatic as that role!

jah p on Nov 28, 2010



LINKFX on Nov 28, 2010


#11 If your a fan of The rock, you may wanna check out Southland tales(Critics panned it as one of the worst movies ever made, ironically in its my favorites) He was fucking fantastic in that, so if you hate the movie its worth it solely for his performance...if you can understand his character(s) lol.

Cody w on Nov 29, 2010


I thought this faster was ok, the highlight was the flashback sequence with the rock as a getaway driver which was as great car chase i just wish there was more of it in the film. Also good to see southland tales getting recognized, one of my favorites too.

abcdefg on Nov 29, 2010


I enjoyed this movie much more than I thought. I was expecting something along the lines as the Transporter, or Johna Hex. Instead I got a fairly decent movie. Flawed and predictable, but fun and decent quality. @ Jared L I do not really know why the "Killer" character was in the film, he was not need. BUT he was an interesting character none the less. By the feel of the film, it almost appears as though the ending was rewritten. I don't want to give away too many spoilers, but either Driver or Killer was set up to die, they both had an obsession which was killing them, hence the Preacher on the radio talking about the dark path. They paralleled each other. IMHO at the end they should have chosen separate paths, but the both chose the same path.

Chris on Nov 29, 2010


Just gotta say, i want really bad for the Rock to have a break out movie role that put him on the map for franchises & sequels... I think he's got that "it" quality to be an arnold, Van damme or stallone throwback muscle-head action hero; and that the Rundown was a june-july premiere (instead of late aug-sept) from doing that for him. That said, i LIKED the movie but didn't love it. In a lot of ways it mirrored those speghetti westerns we'd see on TBS with a dude with no name in an unnamed desert-setting, his 6-shooter getting revenge on the "gang" of thugs who wronged him... and him finding redemption and riding off into the sunset. I did like the contradictions of Killer & Driver (killing with no purpose vs killing with purpose). I'm admittedly horrible at reviews so I wont go there, BUT I will say when I left the theatre I felt the same way as when I left "Smokin' Aces." Good, not great, had the potential to be WAY better. Hopefully a head-to-head showdown with Vin Diesel & Tyreese in Fast 5 can spark some new interest and i hear there's talks of some of those guys being in the expendables sequel so we'll see. Predators would have been PERFECT for the rock instead of Brody as well. Sequel anyone 🙂

Solo Calrissian on Nov 29, 2010


The only thing I didn't like about Southland Tales was Cheri Oteri. I cannot stand that woman or her brand of "comedy" in any way whatsoever. Everything about her is nails on a chalkboard for me. Aside from her presence in the film, tho, I liked that flick a lot. Most of the acting is pretty amazing, especially considering that the actors weren't especially known for their acting ability. Dwayne Johnson and Sean William Scott were both fucking great in that flick. Anyway, I wanna see this. Maybe this weekend. I do truly hope the Rock goes after the action roles, and maybe throws some serious dramatic stuff in there as well. Stuff like The Boxer or The Town. He'd be good in flicks like that. The reason Arnold couldn't get away with that sort of stuff was cause his accent is so thick it makes dramatic line reading sound kinda corny by default.

Squiggly_P on Nov 29, 2010


There should have been 7 kills not 6...after Billy Bob it should have been Moon Bloodgood for telling him about the bank robbery. She even had a scene in the bathroom where she felt guilty about what she did so SHE needs to PAY!

birddog on Mar 3, 2011

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