It’s the moment fans of Dwayne Johnson have been waiting for since he burst onto the movie scene in The Mummy Returns. He followed that brief cameo up with a full-length Scorpion King movie, Doom, and a few other action flicks, but like a lot of movie stars, he wanted to branch out.
Trading on his good will and renown with kids, he eased into a lucrative career as a Disney movie star. However, he didn’t abandon his action movie roots, and now The Rock is back and starring in Faster, which sells itself as a classic 70s-style revenge flick that wouldn’t look out of place in the canon of Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson.
Dwayne Johnson plays Driver. None of the characters in Faster have names, they’re simply archetypes. Johnson’s character was the getaway driver for a crew of convicts who were double-crossed, robbed, and executed. Even Driver was left for dead with a bullet wound in the back of the head.
However, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and Driver spends his 10 years in prison pacing, working out, and beating the crap out of other prisoners. As the Warden (Tom Berenger in a brief cameo) says, he didn’t start trouble, but he didn’t back down from trouble either. But now, Driver is free, and it’s time to finish what got started 10 years ago.
Driver was just helping out his brother, Gary, after their original getaway driver dropped out. After his brother’s death, Driver had one thing on his mind, and that’s revenge. He contacted a private eye to hunt down the men responsible for his brother’s murder, and now Driver’s got a list, he’s checking it twice, and those who have been naughty are going to be put on ice.
If there’s one thing Johnson should be doing, it’s making action movies. While he’s not a great actor, he’s got a definite charismatic streak that allows him to dominate the screen just how an action hero should. He’s got the look. That’s the most important thing for a lead actor. When he emotes, it’s very restrained, but more effective when he does show emotion, because it’s surprising. He sheds a few tears, and it means more in the context of the film than a complete sobbing breakdown. The other actors in the movie don’t really matter, though Billy Bob Thornton looks like the broken down junkie that is Cop and the movie’s various adversaries are appropriately creepy.
One of the movie’s better elements is the car. The film’s director, the very talented George Tillman, must have watched a lot of old Steve McQueen flicks, because they do a wonderful job of shooting the scenes with the car. We’re talking crane shots, tracking shots, follow shots in another car. They do a great job of making the car a character, which is important because the car is as integral to Johnson’s character as the massive revolver he totes throughout the film. When the hotshot Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) in the Ferrari chases the Driver’s Chevy SS, it’s a great sequence reminiscent of Bullitt‘s iconic car chase, but without the length.
That’s the best thing about Faster. It’s an old-school action movie. Hence the characters being named by archetype rather than being given names in the script written by Tony and Joe Gayton. Only the victim, Gary, gets a name. Everyone else doesn’t matter, because most of them have to die. The Rock says basically nothing. Instead, he lets his Ruger Super Redhawk (and the detectives) do all of the exposition for him. That’s why the movie works on a sheer, visceral entertainment level. The Rock is like a half-black, half-Samoan Charles Bronson, but without the frightening mustache and helmet hair.
Much like the Kill Bill saga merged samurai movies, westerns, and sleazy 70s revenge movies, Faster blends the car porn of the 60s with the vigilante justice movies of the 70s. If you like that sort of thing, Faster is the sort of thing you’ll like. If you don’t like that sort of thing, there are plenty of romantic comedies out there just begging for your film dollar.
As for me, I’d take an average, non-CGI action movie over the slick, ultra-modern output of Hollywood any day. Give me a real action movie star for once. Don’t hand me a legitimate actor with some tacked-on muscles and call him an action star. I want a muscular, emotionless death machine, and that’s what Dwayne Johnson gives us in Faster. We know he can do legitimate acting, but who wants to see that?
US Correspondent Ron Hogan wants to drive a 1965 Pontiac GTO through a plate glass window, then leap from the car into a hail of gunfire. Isn’t that what every little 80s child dreams of? Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness, and daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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