Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: George Tillman

Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Carla Gugino, Oliver Jackson-Cohen.

After flirting with bland family friendly fare for Disney (The Game Plan, Race To Witch Mountain), former wrestler turned action hero Dwayne Johnson returns to full on action mode. Faster is a nasty, gratuitously violent and visually ugly vengeance-fuelled action thriller that owes more than a debt to the films of Walter Hill. It also has echoes of John Boorman’s violent revenge thriller Point Blank and the Mel Gibson thriller Payback.

Johnson plays a character known only as “Driver”, who could have been played by the likes of Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson or Bruce Willis in their heyday. Driver was the ace wheelman for a gang of bank robbers ten years earlier. But the gang was double-crossed after one of their jobs, and everyone was shot in the head. Driver survived his injury, and served ten years in jail. Now free, he is out for revenge on those who betrayed him. He gets a list of names from a private detective, and then sets out in his black Chevy Chevelle to kill everyone on the list.

On his trail are two different pursuers. First up is “Cop” (Billy Bob Thornton), a cynical, sleazy heroin-addicted detective on the verge of retirement. With his reluctant partner Cicero (Carla Gugino), Cop is following a trail of dead bodies, hoping to catch up with the killer. And thrown into the mix is the cool egocentric and hitman, known only as “Killer” (played with icy menace by British actor Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a bored millionaire and adrenaline junkie who kills merely for the thrill of it. The three central characters are on a collision course.

As befits the name of the film, Faster is a lean, mean action film that has been directed at breakneck pace by George Tillman jr (Soul Food, the Biggy Smalls biopic Notorious, etc). But his handling of the key action scenes is somewhat messy, using that disjointed, kinetic style of editing favoured by most of today’s younger directors who don’t know how to stage action scenes fluidly. Tillman suffuses the film’s locations with a suitably drab and dull appearance that suits the morally ambiguous mood. The script from writers Tony Gayton (The Salton Sea, etc) and his brother Joe Gayton (Bulletproof, etc) is fairly predictable stuff, full of empty moralising, cliches and one-dimensional characters who are archetypes of this genre.

Johnson has a solid build, brooding appearance and taciturn personality that suits his anonymous, stolid and implacable character. He seems far more comfortable with the demands of his role here than he did with some of his more recent comic outings. And Thornton seems comfortable as the corrupt cop, a familiar addition to his gallery of sleazy characters that doesn’t offer him much of a stretch performance-wise.

Faster is a B-grade film that delivers plenty of action and high-speed thrills, but not much else, and although largely a wasted opportunity it is a suitable time killer for action junkies.




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