Faster opens with a glowering Driver [Dwayne Johnson] being cuffed and escorted to the warden’s office. From Driver’s perspective, the warden’s words slowly fade away into nothingness. Once out of prison, he begins to run, pausing to pick up a car [a pimped out Chevelle SS] and stopping only as long as it takes to kill people. Which people? In this fast-paced, efficient vengeance flick, that information is doled out by a judicious use of flashbacks, photos and, occasionally [very little] dialogue.
On Driver’s list there are several names: Telemarketer [Courtenay Gains], Bouncer [Ski Cutty Carr], Old Guy John Cirigliano], The Evangelist [Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje] and so on [at least, that’s how their credits read – the actual names are never on screen long enough for us to get them all].
Following the first kill, Cop [Billy Bob Thornton] is assigned the case along with Cicero [Carla Gugino], who, by the conventions the movie is setting up should probably be called Beautiful Cop. They quickly put together Driver’s story thanks to a video of a group of masked men brutally killing four men who held up a bank ten years earlier. Driver is out to kill his brother’s murderers – but that’s not all…
Which leads us to Killer [Oliver Jackson-Cohen], who is hired to kill Driver. Killer is someone who does not give up – photos in his home are proof of that. He’s also living with a killer blonde [Maggie Grace] who, once they are married [lots of stuff going in this movie], spends the rest of the afternoon in a unique form of connubial bliss – target practice! Driver gets the best of Killer, initially, but not without taking damage – and, like I said, Killer is not the type to give up.
The script, by Tom Gayton & Joe Gayton, is lean, mean and brutally effective. Details are carefully layered in to give backstory and motivation, but the onscreen activity is on a very focused throughline. Director George Tillman Jr. [Soul Food, Notorious] makes the already imposing Johnson seem like a force of nature; a veritable juggernaut – unflinching, unwavering, unstoppable. And Johnson, for his part, plays that force of nature with a barely restrained rage that makes even his few less than brutal moments onscreen powerful.
Like Faster’s story, the action set pieces – whether they be car chases, fights, or gun-related – are quick and to the point. Each one is like a barely contained tornado.
Faster isn’t likely to win any awards – it certainly won’t win the weekend – but it’s a solid example of what can be done to freshen up a long-lived, frequently tired action genre. If action and cinematic vengeance are your cuppa, then you’ll enjoy Faster.
Final Grade: B