The film centers on an ex-con, Driver (Dwayne Johnson), who sets out to avenge his brother’s death after they were double-crossed during a heist years ago. During his campaign, however, he’s tracked by a veteran cop (Billy Bob Thornton) and an egocentric hit man (Oliver Jackson-Cohen).
While the premise has several notable elements of intrigue, the treatment, by writing duo Tony and Joe Gayton, is every bit as bleak and lackluster as expected; weighed down by exposition, formulaic direction and clichéd plot points. It’s not at all helped by the screenwriters’ tendency to shift emphasis onto pointless, misleading subplots, for example Killer’s backstory: a character that simply lacks the urgency needed to occupy such a large part that bears little importance to the main plot’s overall direction.
Tillman Jr’s unwillingness to take advantage of the narrative’s innately fun, B-movie potential guarantees that Faster – aside from the odd car chase and shoot-out – is every bit as intolerable as audiences have come to expect with such a conventional genre, the complete opposite of what Drive Angry, a film sporting similar ideas, achieved not so long ago.
Johnson is – somewhat surprisingly – Faster’s greatest assest, in a role that proves he possesses the charm and presence needed to excel in the action genre. Here he’s the tough guy he needs to be, delivering a truly menacing performance: reticent, destructive and unrelenting.
It’s easily one of his most compelling performances – certainly enough to redeem him of his recent fare of deplorable “family-comedy” roles. Here’s hoping his performance is enough to secure him more heavyweight roles in the future.
Thornton, as the junkie cop, looks annoyed and every bit reluctant to be in such frivolous fluff. But, in a decidedly head-scratching way, this informs his on screen persona in an interesting, alluring and slick fashion, maintaining his mysterious nature throughout.
Aside from Thornton, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Carla Gugino – as one of the men on Driver’s hit list and a detective after his head respectively – are the only two supporting cast members who distinguish themselves and carve out plausible characters you can empathise with – and that’s miraculous considering their shamefully limited screen time and laughable dialogue.
The rest of the supporting troupe – including the barely seen Jennifer Carpenter, Maggie Grace and Jackson-Cohen – are trivial and wholly disposable.
Faster is a passable yet mediocre and highly forgettable action-thriller, salvaged only by Johnson’s surprisingly rousing performance.
This post is original content of Centerfolds & Empty Screens and is posted here with permission.