Finally Dwayne Johnson aka “The Rock” (THE RUNDOWN, WALKING TALL) is where he belongs here in FASTER, an old-school action flick by the relatively unknown director George Tillman Jr. (NOTORIOUS, MEN OF HONOR). While this may not be the high powered return to action that many fans have been yearning for, it sure is one hell of a good start.
Dwayne Johnson is a bad ass and deserves to be in more movies like this one. He is likable, emotes a lot better than most of my 80’s action favorites, and from what the ladies tell me, he’s quite the looker. Watching this movie makes me feel like I am seeing an old friend who has been spending time with his family for too long. We have not seen Johnson in too many action flicks since THE RUNDOWN (one of my favorite action movies ever), WALKING TALL, and to a lesser extent, DOOM. Instead Mr. Johnson has been parading around with the kids in movies such as THE GAME PLAN, RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN, PLANET 51, and THE TOOTH FAIRY (really!?), and he has likely collected a crap ton of money in the process. Shame on you Dwayne, shame on you. Alright, now that that’s out of my system, let’s get down to business.
The story here is not going to win any awards for originality. A guy (Johnson) has been wrongfully placed in prison for 10 years after he witnessed the death of his brother by a group of baddies. After serving his time he gets released and now wants to find and kill every last man responsible for putting him in the slammer and killing his big brother. In its defense, the story is not half bad, recognizable in a good “revengy”way, and does not detract from the action like most action flicks are prone. What we have here is an old-school style revenge action flick that does not take too many risks and has some compelling, if not flawed, characters.
The main players here are Dwayne Johnson who is simply referred to as “Driver”, Billy Bob Thorton (A SIMPLE PLAN, ARMAGEDDON) known as “Cop” and newcomer Oliver Jackson-Cohen (GOING THE DISTANCE) known as “Killer”. As you may be able to surmise, Johnson is a ex heist driver, Thorton is a cop with a drug addiction, and Jackson-Cohen is a hired gun sent to track down “Driver” before he kills another target. These simple character labels reflect the simple revenge story being told here. “Driver” sees things very black and white and is focused on killing everyone involved without hesitation. The actors themselves do a decent enough job at being convincing, even though I do admit I had a hard time stomaching the “Killer” character at times who is a young egocentric man who just can’t move on until he wins. That said, we are mostly switching back between Johnson and Thorton who both play their roles well enough.
The action in this flick is consistent seeing how there are about six main targets for “Driver” to hunt down. This keeps the movie rolling at a steady pace. Each victim we come across sheds a little more light on who these characters are and their role in the overall story. The action scenes themselves are serviceable, but nothing to write home about. No one scene stood out above the rest besides a few where we see “driver” not hesitate for even a second. The coolest thing about the action here is that lack of any hesitation (for the most part). Even though I have seen this lack of hesitation done much better in other movies, such as Michael Mann’s COLLATERAL (in my top 10 favorite movies), it is still pretty bad ass to see Johnson acting like a lawless cowboy in modern times. He drives around town in his classic automobile (just like riding around on a horse) and carries a six-shooter with him at all times. Even most of the locations here are rustic and desolate, much like the “Wild West”.
It was great seeing Dwayne Johnson kicking ass on the big screen again and I hope this is the start of a trend. I think Hollywood has a huge lack of action stars these days and I would like to see Johnson fill that role a little more. Hopefully he can be in enough action flicks before EXPENDABLES 2 comes out so he can earn his spot on the cast. While this may not be the second coming that Johnson fans had hoped for, it is still a fun and entertaining action film that leaves me wanting to see Johnson kick some more ass.
Final Score: 7 out of 10