“I can’t.”

“God can’t save you from me.”

“Where’s the exit?”

“Steel plate.”

“Your dad is sorry.”

“That’s a long dark road you’re headed down.”

“Where’s the old man?”

Sorry to spoil half of the main character’s dialogue in Faster, but I couldn’t resist.  Ah, good ol’ gritty revenge sagas for bulky action stars of few words—you gotta love ’em.  Dwayne Johnson should generally be pleasing his action fans with Faster, as everything but “The Rock” splitting up his name brings him back to that brawny star his followers have missed since 2004’s Walking Tall.  Now he’s out to settle the score against the men who made a snuff film out of his brother’s and his own murder.  Did I lose you?  I promise this isn’t science-fiction… for the most part.

Director George Tillman, Jr. attempts to strip down excessive vigilante tales and bring the premise to its most basic of elements, so much so that his lead characters don’t even have names—they’re rooted in archetypes, acting as functions of formula or machines driving the plot.  The film opens with Driver (Johnson) being released from prison while his face practically has ‘bloodthirsty’ written all over it, and he simply requests for the exit.  He sprints away from his incarceration to an auto lot where his wheels of vengeance await, a 1971 Chevelle all spruced up and film-ready.  Driver has a list of perps to take out one by one.  Who will stand in his way?  Enter a scruffy Billy Bob Thorton as Cop.  You wouldn’t believe he’s ten days away from retirement, has a wife and son who want little to do with him, and he’s a dope addict trying to scrape by until he’s home free.  Cop is partnered with another detective, Cicero (Carla Gugino) to track down Driver, or at least follow up on his trail of dead bodies.  Not only are the cops on Driver’s trail, but an assassin labeled Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) has been dispatched to stop Driver in his tracks before the body count gets too high.

Driver has been driven to kill (forgive me) after a bank robbery went bloody sour, and he watched his older brother bite the dust.  Even Driver himself took a gunshot to the back of his skull, but not before he declares: “I’m gonna kill all of you.”  I’ll let the movie tell you how he survived a bullet to the head.  Armed with a .454 Casull, unlimited ammo, the look of a hungry grizzly bear, and a list of names, he’s ready to find some bad guys.  Tillman counts the passing days throughout the film as Dwayne Johnson covers lots of ground killing lots of bad guys, and finds little to no interference from the law, even with his giant shaved mug covering every flat-screen television in America.

I can find a lot to like in Faster, but I question what Tillman is after here.  Revenge tales come and go all the time, so why try and flatten leftovers?  If you’re going to take the last remaining current action star, which is really a debatable title for Johnson these days, why don’t you try and make him memorable?  Why divulge in archetypes?  I think he is going for a grittier tone sans all the visual extremes of Tony Scott’s bloated, yet engaging Man on Fire.  But Johnson is playing more machine than Schwarzenegger ever saw in his day.  His character is far less interesting than Thorton’s and Jackson-Cohen’s.  Johnson gets little to do and his fans will be hard-pressed to find an action sequence that isn’t abrupt and to the point, allowing The Rock to do little more than grimace and pull the trigger.  His physicality is constantly paraded in front of the camera and yet never utilized.  This is most definitely a point-blank film featuring nearly zero glaring, complex action sequences, and because of this, those expecting the return of Johnson laying the smack down, may have their hopes up a bit too high.

I have no doubt viewers will still be interested in a low-rent, gritty film that’s delivering Johnson into R-rated territory.  This stripped-down thriller seems to taking things a little bit seriously, yet also feels self-aware.  Tillman presents us with tools to get the bloody job done and he does so.  I suppose I was looking for a little more flare and intrigue.  Did I buy into Faster?  Who cares.  I had a good enough time to remember it for another half hour.  Here’s hoping another filmmaker finds Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on that rare day where he has a thirst for action movies, and let’s hope that filmmaker doesn’t hold back.

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Rating: 3.0/5 (2 votes cast)