Sunday, February 27, 2011


I must admit, I have a thing for revenge flicks. Must be that I just love the edginess and the flippant atitude of the exploitation genre. It's not about how clever the script is, or how brilliant the acting is. All a director has to do is go crazy and take no prisoners. "Faster" is certainly in the exploitation zone, which means it's simple and fun, but it also aims a little higher and that is its downwfall, unfortunately.

Dwayne Johnson, formerly known as The Rock, stars as Driver, an ex-con. As soon as he's released from prison, he embarks on a journey to inflict a lot of pain on the people who after a heist 10 years ago, killed his brother and stole their loot. He arms himself with a snub nose revolver and a '70s Chevrolet and begins his journey of bloody revenge, hunting down those involved and gunning them down, one by one. On the other side of the law is Billy Bob Thornton as Cop (no kidding, check IMDb if you don't believe me, these guys don't have names, just badass callsigns). He is a drug-addicted washed-up cop, just a couple of weeks away from retirement, which usually means a cliche is about to burst. But with this movie, it's not the case.

Director George Tillman Jr. throws away some old cliches and makes room for older ones. It's easy to spot the Spaghetti Western influences. The lone avenger, the moral ambiguity, themes of redemption and loads of violence, heck that's Sergio Leone right there. So if you know your cinema history, you're going to spend a lot of the running time of this movie thinking about stuff like that. Ultimately, though, it's really just an ambition, that isn't really on par with similar attempts by the likes of Tarantino, who always got it right. Oh and there's also a subplot involving a hitman hired to track down and stop Driver. He's got some personal issues too. The therapist requiring kind. But it's really pretty pointless as far as subplots go.

The movie is entertaining all right. It gets right more than it does wrong, so it's a safe bet you're not going to walk dissapointed from it. Dwayne Johnson is back in action shape and even though he only utters a few lines, he fits the part well. He strikes the right balance between outlaw and sympathetic character and that is essential for a movie like this. Billy Bob is also great as the burned out cop. It's a shame though that the supporting parts for Carla Gugino and Maggie Grace only allow them to act as furniture (in Grace's case walk around in bra and panties). I suppose female characters don't really matter much in these movies, unless they're someone's dead wife that needs avenging.

Tillman Jr. crafts a decent actioner. The Western undertones are there, so if his intention was to make them obvious, I'll give him points for it. The bigger issue is that underneath all the sylish cinematography and cinematic references, there isn't a lot action going on. There's just too much talking and not enough shooting. It's not something I would normaly complain about, but this movie seems to beg for it. I normally scoff at big explosions and cars going wheels up when it's unnecessary, but I guess when an action movie lacks any kind of actual blood-boiling action, it just leaves me confused. "Last Man Standing" (1996) starring Bruce Willis, with similar Sergio Leone references, overdid it. This movie underdoes it. But, like I said, it's entertaining enough and I did not regret watching it. In the end, it's up to you, dear reader, to decide if you want to take this ride or not.

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