Faster (CBS Films, R)

There are moments where you will laugh at the pure ridiculousness of the dialogue.



Faster could have been a truly badass action flick. Director George Tillman, Jr. sets the movie up as a purely testosterone-driven picture with all the makings of a throwback set to fire on all cylinders. We even get a cameo by B-list actor Tom Berenger, which sets the tone for this style of filmmaking.
Tillman has peppered the movie with references to films of all types from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly to Vanishing Point, which makes it a blast for cinephiles despite the poor script. In the end, though, the movie becomes less of an homage to action movies of the ’70s and ’80s and more like just another bad Hollywood movie that mistakes explosions and car chases for action.
This happens for a number of reasons. First, the lead character, Driver (Dwayne Johnson), is constantly changing his persona and personality. One minute he’s practically mute, which is incredibly terrifying, and the next he’s spouting one-liners like he’s Steven Seagal. As the movie opens, he is being released from prison and sets off on his killing spree to avenge his brother’s death. He speaks only one line in the first 20 minutes of the movie, another nod to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. But this quickly changes, as he goes from being a man with no name to a man who speaks only in clichés.
Second, Billy Bob Thornton plays the cop tracking Driver as he avenges his brother’s death. Thornton’s unnamed character (Cop) is a drug-addict, worn down and only a few days from retirement: a stock character at its best. But with an actor of Thornton’s quality (never mind his last few films), the audience begins to think that Faster is supposed to be a legitimate movie they are supposed to take seriously, instead of a cartoon which would be much more fun. There is also a hardass lady cop who hates Thornton’s character for no reason and has only two emotions: pissed off and impatient. Hers is another character who has been used hundreds of times before being played by Carla Gugino, a fine actress who is clearly slumming it in this role. Why not someone like Kathleen Turner, who would really throw the audience for a loop?
Finally, there is the most interesting character, the contract killer played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen. He is ridiculously wealthy and physically perfect, and has a girlfriend almost too hot to look at. His motivations are an enigma, and for the first half of the movie he is incredibly fascinating to watch. Then, halfway through, he becomes weak, emotional and practically addressing the audience as he explains his motivations for what he does. Seriously? We could have been watching one of the best killers since Rutger Hauer in The Hitcher. Instead, he loses all appeal and becomes the lamest part of the movie.
The filmmakers also went so far as to not even give the three main characters names. They’re just Driver, Cop and Killer. Pretty awesome. Writers Tony and Joe Gayton have clearly done their homework on the genre, but neither they nor Tillman have enough guts to make a big budget B-movie and forget all the Hollywood expectations.
Though there are moments where you will laugh at the pure ridiculousness of the dialogue, Faster has some genuinely badass moments and is worth checking out, if not at a cheap afternoon showing then definitely on DVD. | Matthew F. Newlin

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