February 25, 2011
After retiring from professional wrestling to pursue a career in movies, it seemed like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was destined to follow in the footsteps of Arnold Schwarznegger and become a bonafide action star with films like The Scorpion King (2002) and Walking Tall (2004). Hell, Arnie even had a cameo in The Rundown (2003) as if he were symbolically passing the torch to Johnson. Then, with Be Cool (2005) he showed an aptitude for comedy (truth be told, he was the best thing about that movie) and started doing forgettable family fare like Race to Witch Mountain (2009) and Tooth Fairy (2010). Faster (2010) is Johnson’s return to R-rated action films and unfortunately it was met with mixed reviews and tepid box office, which may send the former wrestler back to annoying family movies as Hollywood continues to try and figure out what to do with him.
A man known only as the Driver (Johnson, in what I’m assuming is a homage to the Walter Hill film of the same name) is released from prison by an oddly philosophical warden (a slumming Berenger) who spouts such sage observations as, “It was as if you were born to the darkness in this place.” However, the Driver could care less about what this guy has to say. He just wants to leave this hellhole and so we get a montage of the man running through the desolate landscape that surrounds the prison (because no one came to get him – *sniff*). He’s clearly a man on a mission and eventually arrives at a seemingly abandoned junkyard where he uncovers a really sweet classic muscle car with all the tools he needs to exact revenge.
Ten years ago, the Driver pulled a heist with his brother only to be double-crossed by another crew. Now, he plans to track down every guy and make them pay. After he walks into a place of business and blows one of its employees away, a burnt out Cop (Thornton) close to retirement and supporting a nasty heroin addiction, takes on the case, much to the chagrin of a fellow detective (Gugino). The rest of the film plays out the Driver’s single-minded mission with the Cop and a bored multi-millionaire cum hitman (Jackson-Cohen) hot on his trail.
George Tillman, Jr. directs Faster with the slick sheen of a consummate professional for what is basically a B-movie. He gives the action sequences a dynamic, exciting vibe with stylish camerawork that does its job by making Dwayne Johnson look cool while his character takes out those who wronged him. The refreshingly lean screenplay has been trimmed of most of its narrative fat and wisely reduces Johnson’s dialogue to the bare minimum so that his character becomes a no-nonsense avenger, which is good because most of Faster’s dialogue is pulpy nonsense. The film restores Johnson’s badass credentials – it’s just too bad few people saw it. If only he had started making movies in the 1980s where he would have been ideally suited for directors like John Flynn (Lock Up) or Walter Hill (48 Hrs.) and this film certainly feels like a throwback to that era.
There is an alternate ending with optional introduction by director George Tillman, Jr. This was the original ending but it didn’t test well with preview audiences and was cut out. It does tend to betray the film’s overriding theme of redemption but also features a pretty cool final showdown between the Driver and the hitman.
Also included are five deleted scenes with optional introductions by Tillman. He puts this footage in context and briefly explains why they were cut. These scenes unnecessary flesh out some of the characters and were rightly removed.