Who’s In It: Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Carla Gugino, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Maggie Grace, Xander Berkeley, Moon Bloodgood, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Tom Berenger, Mike Epps, Jennifer Carpenter, Matt Gerald
The Basics: Dwayne Johnson is a former wheelman out to avenge the death of his beloved brother. On his trail are two strangers: an the over-the-hill detective investigating the dead bodies The Rock is leaving all over the Inland Empire (Billy Bob Thornton), and a good-looking assassin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) who’s been hired to take him out. Bullets fly into brains, throats are cut, large men are stabbed with ice picks, and engines are revved as the three modern-day cowboys hurtle toward a final standoff.
What’s The Deal: Faster is The Good, the Bad and the Ugly with muscle cars and The Rock – or at least, it desperately wants to be, hence the uber-obvious nods to Westerns and gunslingers, right down to the usage of Ennio Morricone’s iconic whistling theme in not one but two separate scenes. But take away director George Tillman, Jr.’s feeble attempt at genre play and there’s still not much to hang your hat on in this modern-day revenge flick. Characters talk a lot about family, forgiveness, the sins of the father and all that – at least, when they’re not busy shooting people in the head, burning rubber, or reliving the same flashback 10 times from different points of view -- but it’s empty, fleeting stuff that resonates only long enough for the next car chase/fight scene/shoot-out to come along. Faster would have done better to dump the moralizing altogether since we all know what we really came for: to see Johnson drive fast and kick righteous ass. It’s been a while since we could smell what The Rock was cooking.
The Thing About Calling Your Movie “Faster”: It just won’t do if your flick detours into snoozeville every half hour. The film’s bursts of violence are wantonly energetic at their best, but those moments don’t come along often enough; with the litany of backstory, flashbacks, and unnecessary explorations of secondary characters’ love lives and psychological issues that the script crams in, Faster’s pace gets so bogged down that it ends up more like Fast-ish.
What Faster Does Right: Muscle car porn. Tillman lenses most of Faster at magic hour, which lends an iconic feel to Johnson as he rips up and down the highway in a black 1970 Chevelle SS. The car itself deserves second billing; power bristling as it peels out like a steel-framed steed, its roar and hum lends extra menace to The Rock as he plays Avenging Angel, racing toward his goal like Kowalski toward his roadblock. Faster manages to execute car chases and stunts that we haven’t exactly seen before and includes a Chevelle vs. Ferrari showdown that, for once, doesn’t end up in the kind of total automotive destruction that makes gearheads shed silent tears in the theater.
Secondary Character With A Weird Amount Of Background And Detail Who Deserves His Own Movie: Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s handsome assassin (simply called “Killer”), a Mark Zuckerberg-esque dot com whiz-kid bazillionaire/extreme sports enthusiast who’s turned to contract killing as his latest hobby. A former child cripple (that’s what drives him, you see – that and being slightly bipolar and off his meds), he beds Maggie Grace and “beats” yoga in the first 10 minutes, then goes nuts trying to off The Rock. Look for him in the inevitable sequel, Faster 2: Supermodel Hit Man Boogaloo.