Screen Rant’s Vic Holtreman reviews Faster

Faster is not exactly what you might be expecting.

Is it (at long last) the return of Dwayne (formerly known as “The Rock”) Johnson as a big, tough, scary badass of the sort you wouldn’t want to run into in a dark alley? Oh, yes. Is it just another another check-your-brain-at-the-door action flick? Yes… and no.

Within moments of the start of the film, you will understand that “Driver” (Johnson) is, well, a driven man. Everything about his demeanor says “man on a mission” – and he is the very definition of single-mindedness. He’s being released from prison after 10 years and the only thing on his mind is the need to avenge the murder of his brother.

Driver is a man to be reckoned with – a man with a reputation that says to most people “just back away.” Within minutes of the start of the film, he walks into an office building, then to a sea of cubicles, with the determination of a Terminator – and without hesitation puts a bullet into the head of his first victim.

As the film progresses, we’re given the backstory of Driver and his brother in flashbacks. It’s apparently a case of bad guys getting taken out by some “badder” guys, and the brother was executed right in front of Driver. Eventually we come to learn the details of the circumstances that led to all this, and believe it or not, there’s actually a bit of heart amidst all this crime and brutality.

On the other side we have an odd couple police partnership made up of Billy Bob Thornton, playing a cop 10 days from retirement with an estranged wife, a surprisingly fat son (considering he and his wife, played by Moon Bloodgood, are both thin) and a bad drug habit – and Carla Gugino, a no-nonsense cop who’s not too happy about being paired up with a guy who has one foot out the door and doesn’t seem to have it together.

As the film progresses we see that Driver is not a brutal killer at heart, but is acting out of a sense of justice and retribution. Each killing is more difficult than the one before as he starts to question what he is doing – while the police are getting closer to catching him.

Maggie Grace and Oliver Jackson-Cohen in a scene from 'Faster'

There’s a wildcard in the mix as well, as someone on Driver’s death list has hired a young, multi-millionare, ex-software developer (played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen) who seems to assassinate people just because he’s bored and it’s challenging. He has a relationship with a hot young woman who Lost fans will recognize (Maggie Grace). Their relationship starts out typical, but then evolves to kind of creepy/bizarre in its attempt at “normal.”

Not quite to the extent of Unstoppable, Faster has the feel of a 1970s action film: For the most part it just drives in a straight line, with Johnson on a quest to find the next person involved in the death of his brother, killing them, getting back in his early 70s Chevy Chevelle SS with a Hurst shifter and AM radio, and going after the next person on the list. What takes away from the 70s feel, is the bloody shaky cam and some of the more “creative” camera angles – shooting up, from the floor towards Johnson and one of the bad guys fighting. Different? Yeah? Weird? Yeah, that, too.

What surprised me was that Faster isn’t just a straight up revenge action movie with a two-dimensional lead character. Johnson plays a man who starts out completely convinced of what he needs to do, but over time he begins to question whether it’s really worth it… is this really justice? In the end, will the revenge satisfy him or accomplish anything truly meaningful?

Dwayne Johnson starts out as intense, mean, scary man – but as the film goes on he gets across to the audience his growing self-doubt and inner conflict over what he’s doing. While most of the characters were pretty sterotypical, of all the performances, I’d have to say that Carla Gugino’s was the most “standard” (tough, strong female cop), and while Maggie Grace is a pleasure to the eyes, her performance seemed a bit stiff (albeit much improved from her days on Lost, in my opinion). Billy Bob is always convincing and did a great job here of bringing the audience full circle with his character (you’ll understand when you see the movie). Oliver Jackson-Cohen had me distracted because (and maybe it’s just me) he seemed like a fraternal twin of Jake Gyllenhaal – and my brain kept asking “Isn’t that Gyllenhaal?”

In the end, I came away from Faster pleasantly surprised – I went in expecting a no-brainer action flick but found myself enjoying it quite a bit more than that and actually caring about at least our “hero.”

Faster Red Band trailer (for violence):

[poll id=”97″]

If you want to talk about the film without worrying about spoiling it for others, please head over to our Faster Spoilers Discussion.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)