There’s a good movie lurking in here somewhere, one where the main character – who’s simply known as Driver – isn’t impossible to find despite leaving a veritable trail of bread crumbs, one where he actually gets noticed in public thanks to his mug being plastered all over the evening news after killing a man. “Faster,” unfortunately, is happy to take the easy way out, and after a while it’s hard to tell if the movie is even aware that it’s bordering on self-parody. And the frustrating part is that even self-parody could have worked here, had it been handled smartly. The core elements to the story are solid; the execution of them is not.
Driver (Dwayne Johnson) has just been released from prison after doing 10 years for his role in a bank robbery. The job was actually a success, but he and his accomplice brother were double-crossed, and Driver watched as a group of thugs took his money and killed his brother. Driver scores some help tracking down the whereabouts of the perps who took their money after he’s released, and exacts his bloody revenge. Hot on his tail are Cop (Billy Bob Thornton) and fellow detective Cicero (Carla Gugino), as well as Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), who’s been contracted to take out Driver before he gets any further down his to-do list.
Driver is up there with Timothy Olyphant’s character in “Hitman” on the list of most conspicuous killers. He makes no effort to duck security cameras, and he leaves each crime scene loudly, with the burning of much rubber. It’s maddening, because had they treated a few key story elements with some subtlety, this could have been a much better movie. As it is, they telegraph the Big Reveal a good hour before it’s necessary, and they force smart people to do very dumb things, like shoot people in places they know can’t hurt them.
You can’t help but feel a little bad for Dwayne Johnson. He’s not the greatest actor the action genre has ever seen, but he’s not terrible either, and should be a few rungs higher on the Hollywood food chain than this. (This is the best supporting cast he’s had for one of his lead roles, though, so he’s got that going for him.) He gives Driver exactly what the part calls for, a still-waters-run-deep stoicism. He fares better in comedies, but his work here is decent enough. Thornton can do this role in his sleep, but he has a good back-and-forth with Gugino, who sells the cop side of the story well. If there is a weak link in the cast, it’s newcomer Jackson-Cohen – think Jake Gyllenhaal with an English accent – who doesn’t quite hold his own, despite having the flashiest role.
The newly re-launched CBS Films has not had a good year. Their two releases prior to this were “Extraordinary Measures” (blowhard acting ahoy!) and “The Back-Up Plan,” which is battling “The Human Centipede” for ‘worst movie of the year’ honors. “Faster” is better than those movies, but not what any studio should consider their high mark by any measure. As for Johnson, if he played to his action movie leanings and comedy skills at the same time, he could make the next “Shoot ‘em Up.” Wouldn’t that be nice.(2 / 5)