Wednesday, November 24, 2010

'Faster' Review

While there are parts of “Faster” that are wonderful, there is so much unfulfilled potential that the film ultimately fails to deliver. The set up is so promising—a convict known only as Driver (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, again proving himself to be a competent movie badass) gets out of prison after ten years, accompanied by one of the best theme songs of all time, “Good-bye My Friend” by Guido and Maurizio De Angeles (the song is the main theme from “Street Law”, a 70s Italian crime starring Franco Nero). He picks up a sweet muscle car, a big gun with big bullets, and a list of names of people to kill. Immediately, he walks into a building and blasts a hole in the head of that ginger guy who played a Crip in “Colors” (Courtney Gaines). Billy Bob Thornton is the grizzled, beaten down, ten-days-from-retirement cop who, along with Carla Gugino, tries to track down and stop Driver.

Who doesn’t want to watch that movie? Sure it has a silly name, and sure, there are some tough guy lines, like “God can’t save you from me”, that will illicit a theater wide chuckle, but if director George Tillman Jr., and screenwriters Joe and Tony Gayton, had stuck with this main set up, “Faster” would have been one of the best action movies in recent memory. Think “Death Wish” got drunk and had a baby with “Vanishing Point”—revenge and fast cars. It wouldn’t have broken any new ground, but it would have been exactly what you want a throwback action/revenge movie to be.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen. Instead of staying with the core of the film, The Rock scowling and unleashing an angry stream of white hot vengeance, there are a number poorly executed subplots. Apparently being a corrupt, junkie cop isn’t enough, as Billy Bob also has an estranged ex-wife (Moon Bloodgood), an ex-junkie herself, that he is trying to reconcile with, and a chubby son who sucks at baseball (this dynamic is an awkward recreation of his role in “Bad Santa”). And that’s not all. If that was it, you could deal with it, and “Faster” would still rule. But it doesn’t stop there. There’s also the story of a neurotic killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), known only as Killer, and his girlfriend (Maggie Grace). Killer is an adrenalin junkie who kills for the thrill not the money, and brags about things like “conquering” yoga. Some shadowy mystery voice on the other end of the phone hires him to stop Driver.

These asides completely derail the momentum of the film. When “Faster” remains with The Rock, it is a magnificent mix of gunplay, car chases, and a nice ice-pick fight in a stripclub bathroom. You get a few glimpses into Driver’s past, moments that could have added some emotional weight to his actions and his quest for revenge, but instead time is squandered on listening to Killer talk to his therapist on his Blue Tooth, or Billy Bob telling his son that he sucks at baseball, too. You think the filmmakers are setting these three men on a collision course, but that, also, fails to deliver, and the entire movie unravels at the end.

The people involved with “Faster” are obviously fans of the genre, and set out to create a badass homage to 70s revenge and action films, but there is too much wasted time wasted on unnecessary subplots that just don’t fit or add anything to the movie. The frustrating thing is that this movie is so close to being incredible in many ways, though ultimately there are too many misspent opportunities for “Faster” to achieve it’s full potential.

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