Faster: almost but not quite (epic)

Okay, so here goes. I am a big fan of The Rock and when I first saw the trailer for this movie, I was fully expecting an action movie of epic proportions. I got action alright, but I’m not so sure if it was all it was hyped up to be.

Faster tells the story of Driver (Dwayne Johnson), who gets out of prison after surviving a point blank gunshot to the head, seeking revenge against those who ambushed him and his crew after a successful bank heist — the same crew who killed his big brother, and left him for dead. The story was pretty cut and dried. Driver was out for blood and nobody was going to stand in his way.

The shots were well executed and the treatment added to the general brooding atmosphere of the movie. I felt like I was watching a combination of Kill Bill, Fast and the Furious and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, especially with the single mindedness of Driver’s methods to take down the people who have wronged him. His list was reminiscent of Uma Thurman’s Black Mamba so it was sort of redundant, as was his survival after a supposedly fatal wound to the head. Also, Dwayne didn’t do himself any favors by taking on the role of a wheelman once again, no matter how kickass the car might be 1.) because his general body build is too thick, which is far from the typical driver look, plus — 2.) driving is Jason Statham’s bread and butter — that much is a given. Each time there is an excellent car stunt, people immediately think of Jason, and 3.) the stunts were not very original — the backwards driving was done in Fast and the Furious and one of Statham’s movies, not sure which but I’m pretty sure its been done before so it wasn’t totally awe inspiring.

While I’ve droned on about the unoriginal premise of the plot and the too familiar execution, there is a lot of good that is to be said about this film as well. The writers, perhaps in a departure to the previous movies which inspired this one, decided to insert a human element to the story, and gave the characters backstories to make them more vulnerable. The group of killers were given families and new lives which motivated them to make the choices they have after the incident. My favorite was that of ringleader Billy Bob Thornton’s, who played the drug dependent detective 10 days away from retirement. Thornton played his part so well (as a father who wanted to spend more time with his son and an estranged husband who wanted to make things right with his wife — a wife, unfortunately, who was indirectly linked to the murder), his desperation, his inner conflict, and his optimism of making that fresh start with his family after he took care of Driver were very raw and very real. His portrayal was so good that viewers will find themselves ready to forgive him his crimes, and wanting him to have his happy ending. There was also a subplot about a conflicted young billionaire turned hitman who charges a dollar for every hit, but this part of the story turned out to be anti-climatic and uneventful, much like some of the aborted action scenes in this picture.

I think Dwayne took on this role to showcase the different facets of his acting. His role as Driver was very emotional but I couldn’t help but feel that he was going overboard at times. The intensity of his anger almost had me expecting smoke to come out of his nostrils half of the time. I also think that the backstory on the ex girlfriend was underutilized and was only included to make Driver seem more vulnerable. I’m not sure if it managed to achieve that objective.

Generally, I think this movie was good, but I’m not jumping up and down in my seat singing its praises. It’s not the best I’ve seen, let’s leave it at that — too bad, I know it had the potential to be so much better. 😦

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