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Slow Justice is No Justice

Movie Review: Faster (2010)
Spoilers: none

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Dwayne Johnson is a vengeance-minded killing machine in the Action/Crime/Drama, Faster.

Following the death of a brother who was set up and ambushed after pulling off a bank heist, newly freed convict, Driver (Dwayne Johnson), goes on a Terminator-style killing spree to take out the parties involved. His job won't be easy when a team led by veteran “Cop” (Billy Bob Thornton) and a highly skilled mercenary, Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), are out to stop him.

Faster is a proud movie with no shortage of attitude. Its prisons and shaved heads and tattooed muscle guys and their noisy, souped-up hotrods that make unapologetic peal-outs could, in some circles, be called staples of American life. We've all been wanting to see Dwayne Johnson in a rougher role (not aimed at young audiences) he takes seriously. And here he is, making us happy, slickly filling shoes Arnie himself would be proud to wear.

While not hiding its vestigials, this throwback is not all covered in the stench of being a product of less sophistication. It’s true that we get our fill of cop clichés, like cops coming onto a crime scene with coffee and a cigarette and proudly asking: “What do we have here?” We also have the sly, smoking cop who doesn't care a flip about his marriage corroded in a dirty past or for his chubby kid he visits on the weekends to play baseball with. Add to that, we have an English-accented bad guy, but that's about where the clichés stop.

Johnson's Driver character may be poorly explained, but there is some depth to the bad guy, Killer, a classic narcissist who can't get enough of himself and is constantly on the bend of proving to himself repeatedly just how much of a badass he can be. Killer is a brilliantly thought-out character, unlike the rest that straight-up lack originality.

Take, for instance, Thornton's Cop. This has to be one of the flattest performances of Thornton's illustrious career. We can work with Xander Berkeley as Sergeant Mallory and Carla Gugino as Detective Cicero. Both of them serve as the nails in the connecting boards to make this violently bloody tale of shooting, stabbing, and street racing work.

But Faster sets out to entertain. And entertain it does…with loads of meaty excitement! It wastes no time in making Driver the killer you become increasingly fascinated with in your puzzlingly growing desire to sympathize with and learn more of. But you never come to understand what makes Driver, nor what that “ghostly” tattoo on his arm means that adds to his badass-ness twofold. Evidently, that was the way it was supposed to be.

You won't understand the complex elements that “drive” Driver. That's because there are none. He wants revenge for his brother, plain and simple. You do come to understand the mentally unhealthy makeup of Killer, who is a compulsive perfectionist who talks with his therapist often. Our problem is the un-bridged gaps of appeal that affect the other major players in the story.

Those wayward souls targeted by Driver for revenge are simple enough. They are junkies with ugly pasts. Put the whole lot together and you need only look at the writing that connects them; a guy goes on a revenge quest to knock-off murderers, rapists, and child pornographers that wronged him. You want him to spare only one man among them who has become a minister and has turned his life around. Your waiting for him to make up his mind to off the guy or spare the guy gives suspense. What doesn't is the unconvincing acting that tends to hang around what comes before and after intense and gruesome execution scenes carried out by our main man.

Faster has a few big twists, nearly all of them at the end. The movie you start with isn't as good as the movie you end with. Heck, the conclusion of the film gives this average movie its passing grade. I love happy endings, even bloody ones, especially when they make the movie I've watched feel like it was worth sitting through. Sure beats the crap out of seeing Cop take his no-resemblance-bearing, porky kid to a baseball game.

(JH)

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Grade: C+ (2 ½ stars)
Rated: R (for disturbing and bloody violence, strong language, and drug use)
Director: George Tillman Jr.
Summary: An ex-con sets out to avenge his brother's death after they were double-crossed during a heist years ago. During his campaign, he's tracked by a veteran cop and an egocentric hit man. 
Starring: Dwayne Johnson "Driver," Oliver Jackson-Cohen "Killer," Billy Bob Thornton "Cop," Carla Gugino "Cicero," Maggie Grace "Lilly," Sergeant Mallory "Xander Berkeley" 
Genre: Action / Crime / Drama / Thriller
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