'FASTER' Review: Gun-Play, Car Chases And Fights - Oh My...
‘FASTER’ is a typical revenge film which is full of violence, chases, mean stares, fights, an occasional laugh due to sarcastic lines and perhaps a bit of intrigue. Now even though this particular film covers just about everything I’ve mentioned and perhaps a bit more – it’s a bit mediocre. I was so taken by the idea of Dwayne “THE ROCK” Johnson reentering the realm of Action-Hero, but I’m not sure that this is the film that’ll bring him back into that spot-light. The film doesn’t suck as a whole, but personally, I didn’t love it, nor did I hate it, however, I thought this piece – which embraces a bit of ‘FAST AND THE FURIOUS’ – had so much potential, instead it seemed like Director George Tillman, Jr. wanted to come from various angles in order to keep an entertained mind-set of questions and answers as the film played along. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, but I’m a firm believer in less being more. Harshly force-feeding a darkened Dwayne Johnson as “Driver” – a man out to avenge the death of his brother was brilliant as the film goes on describing the back story, but between editing and some pretty bad acting as well as subplots which didn’t belong, it was a mish-mash of way too much to swallow and ultimately left a pretty strange feeling.
Serving as a driver in a bank robbery which succeeded evading being captured by the police, completely came to a downward spiral when Gary – Driver’s (Dwayne Johnson) brother and ringleader of the botched bank robbery – is murdered when captured by a bunch of thugs he’s linked to due to a bad money deal gone wrong. It didn’t have to be that way, but the one in charge of all the thugs felt things had to be done in order to put closure on things and able to move on without an issue. Having shot and leaving Driver for dead as well, they were wrong. Having recovered and obviously arrested for taking part in the bank robbery, Driver serves ten (10) years in prison paying his dues while contemplating his actions once released and going back to hunt down those involved with his brother’s death. Asking questions and handing over cash, Driver eventually obtains information and sets off on his killing spree. Killing this one, that one and also involved in a little knife play as well.
In the midst of all the driving and bullets, there are two stories being followed as well. One (1) which encompasses ‘Cop’ (Billy Bob Thorton) who’s pretty much living a dark life as he copes with his sobriety and also trying to balance what’s left of his troubled relationship with both his wife and son. Day in and day out his regrets keep haunting him, while all along being handed Driver’s case which eventually does not stop in the least bit. News clips, research from his partner and so on, drives Cop off the wall developing an eerie obsession with Driver’s case and history. Building so much resentment towards failing or being at the wrong place at the wrong time, develops an even darker Cop as he’s on the edge of insanity and going to any extreme to stop another victim at the hands of Driver. Story two (2) follows ‘Killer’ (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) who’s a hit-man that’s been contacted and contracted by the leader of the thugs who killed Driver’s brother and his crew. Battling his own demons of wanting to give up a life of killing and being on the run, his girl-friend who serves as his voice-of-reason keeps imposing how even though the life of an assassin may seem fun and thrilling to a certain degree, she would like to move on only because it’s not really something she wants to spend the rest of her life involved with. Killer promises just one more job before he's done – taking out Driver – but what he doesn’t realize is that Driver’s way too fast for him as he’s constantly on the move and closing in to seal the deal and finding out who exactly is the person who green-lit the killings on the day they encountered all those thugs. Lending only a voice, this mysterious King-Pin – who’s aware Driver’s coming for him – keeps pushing Killer to a point where Killer finally catches up to Driver, and as he preps to snuff Driver out, he’s halted by a surprise.
Having jotted down pretty much three (3) different plots practically can create the illusion of creativity and different things to focus on when watching this film, but personally thought it was way too much as it dragged the film on a bit. Yes, there’s enough violence to make those who thrive on it to salivate, but that would have worked better if not only writing and editing had been done differently, but there are way too many characters in the film that the story itself could have done without. I will not go into them one by one because I’ll wind up writing up a manuscript, but less is indeed more. In MY ideal world a revenge film should centralize among the one seeking revenge and the one behind that caused all the ruckus enough to have someone build up anger. However, this film failed in that way and it looks like it just wanted to give you scenes rather than a well organized story. George Tillman, Jr. is a pretty good director, and with projects like ‘NOTORIOUS’ or ‘NOTHING LIKE THE HOLIDAYS’ he was able to catch the essence of characterization and narrate it in an orderly fashion. ‘FASTER’ is full of convoluted situations which one knows would never be possible in real-life settings and also insults the audiences’ intelligence by taking it from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ without any real substance. Yes, there were lots of “OHOO…!” moments released by the audience, but for the most part, it was during scenes which displayed ass-kicking and car chases, and if that’s all an audience needs to feel good, than I cringe for the future of films – I guess their intelligence should be insulted over and over again!
The film's grainy and dark look helps enhance what the story’s about. George Tillman, Jr. seems to be a fan of that kind of look and texture on film. Personally, it looks good – no excuses. However, the acting in this film really suffered. I’ve often said there’s no such thing as a “bad actor,” only actors who have been cast for the wrong role. Billy Bob Thorton pretty much always delivers in whatever role he’s given. I guess like a Denzel Washington or Daniel Day Lewis, it’s always a guarantee you’ll enjoy what you’re about to embark on when watching Billy Bob on screen. Dwayne Johnson on the other hand, it’s either win or lose with him. The man’s got an amazing presence on screen and can deliver a feeling unlike – or just like – any other Action-Hero we’re accustomed to watching. However, when it comes to emotional scenes, he was off in ‘FASTER.’ I remember the role of Sean Porter in ‘GRIDIRON GANG.’ Man, back then known as ‘The Rock’ he laid the smack-down and steam-rolled through the entire film. He kept it powerful, yet sensitive enough to provide the humanistic approach or feeling that no matter how “tough,” one is still able to carry feelings. This time around, although I enjoyed his silent – Johnson barely says a word in this film – intimidating look when fighting, shooting or even driving his car, it goes to crap – and if you watch the film, you’ll see what I mean when I say there’s a major downfall when they’re all tied up and being questioned about the money he, his brother and crew had just stolen. It’s so dull and gets even more pathetic when they shoot his brother and he yells “GARY!” (Laughable) The same can be said for the rest of the cast as well. Something about the way they carried their look was pretty impressive, but it drastically changes the second something comes up that entails a specific reaction. Maybe it was line inflections, maybe it was direction, maybe it was writing, who knows? All I know is how I felt as the film played along. There wasn’t a moment where I felt a certain character or story-line didn’t belong, and if omitted, it wouldn’t have meant much. The film would have been a lot more powerful if the story would have just followed both Thorton and Johnson on a much deeper, darker level, but, whatever – it’s shot, edited and ready for release.
Overall, it’s a film that’s way overdone with subplots, mediocre editing, and an unorganized form of story-telling, but what makes up for it is all the car chasing, gun-play, shooting, fighting and ice-cold stares Dwayne gives off when having located one of the perpetrators. Good flick if there’s nothing else to watch this weekend. So sad as I don’t really think this is Johnson’s comeback film into the action genre – hopefully next year’s fifth (5th) installment of the ‘FAST AND THE FURIOUS’ franchise serves him better as a cop chasing after another overrated action-hero-like individual in Vin Diesel.
* Speaking of Dwayne Johnson, his roles and ‘FAST AND THE FURIOUS,’ here’s an article I wrote back in August… Dwayne 'THE ROCK' Johnson moving 'FASTER' and Furious!! *
GRADE: C / GENRE: Action/Adventure, Drama, Thriller and Crime/Gangster / ROARS: 3 out of 5
RUN TIME: 1 Hr. 40 Min. / RATED: R
CAST: Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Maggie Grace, Oliver Jackson Cohen, Moon Bloodgood
DIRECTOR: George Tillman, Jr.
(Opens Wed. Nov. 24, 2010)
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