I don’t expect high art for a film like George Tillman’s Faster, but I do hold out hope for a gritty piece of pulp fiction that entertains, though it might make me feel a bit guilty for doing so. For the most part, Dwayne Johnson’s return to the action arena delivers, sporting a particularly vicious brand of violence in the service of a standard revenge tale that contains enough narrative twists and solid performances to make it worth the time.
To say that Driver (Johnson) is a man on a mission is an understatement as big as his biceps. Chomping at the bit (literally) to be released after a 10-year prison stint, he sets out to track down the men responsible for his brother’s death. Armed with a souped-up Chevelle, a snub nose .38 and a glower that would melt ice, Driver cuts a bloody path through southern California as he mercilessly kills anyone on his list. Meanwhile, Detective Cicero (Carla Gugino) is trying to track down Driver before he can kill again, but she’s hindered by her partner (Billy Bob Thornton), a burnout who’s 10 days from retirement and hoping to crack this case before he hangs it up.
Tillman and screenwriters Tony and Joe Gayton adapt a deceptive barebones style here that plunges us straight into the action and dispenses the necessary exposition on the fly. On the surface Faster appears to be a generic actioner that can’t be bothered to color outside the lines. However, after about an hour in, we come to realize how clever the Gaytons have been as they pull a couple of inspired twists out of their plot hat. While it’s easy to predict the identity of the unseen mastermind Driver is after, the connection between the gang members he’s hunting down is inspired and justifies our investment in the film.
Though it fails by a mile to match The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, a film it references throughout, Faster does manage to deliver the goods where action is concerned and proves Johnson is quite effective in a script tailored to his strengths.
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