I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Faster

tn_fasterGod DAMN I’m excited for FAST FIVE. It’s only April and that’s my most anticipated movie of the summer by far. But I gotta wait a couple more days, so in honor of Dwayne “The Rock is a registered trademark of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.” Johnson’s addition to the series I decided to finally catch up with his last movie, which I never saw because when I went to see it the showing that I chose turned out to be an “open captions” deal, and I decided to bail. (Ironically there’s so much mumbling in the movie I had to turn the subtitles on a couple times anyway. But at least it was my choice. It’s about freedom.)

In my opinion some movies present an unrealistic body image for men to live up to
In my opinion some movies present an unrealistic body image for men to live up to

FASTER starts out with The Rock just itching for some revenge. It’s the last day of a ten year bid for armed robbery and he’s anxious to get started, pacing frantically in his cell. When they let him out he storms through the gate, takes a look at the desert, and just starts running. After an unspecified amount of travel he arrives at the badass Chevelle that has been prepared for him, stocked with a gun, ammo, leather jacket, hit list and driving instructions (the convenience of GoogleMaps is something that hasn’t been properly addressed in a revenge movie before).

He doesn’t take time to find a girl or eat a steak, he goes straight to some guy’s office, storms past the receptionist, straight to his cubicle and shoots him in the forehead. Doesn’t even slow down to say anything about “This is for betraying us after the robbery and killing my brother.”

Directed by George Tillman, Jr. (NOTORIOUS [not the one by Hitchcock, the one by George Tillman Jr.]), the movie shows the obvious influence of POINT BLANK, THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, and KILL BILL. But not in the sense of being a bunch of references (other than a Morricone ringtone). I like that it takes it all seriously, it’s not a bunch of smart alecky shit.

The Rock’s character is just called “DRIVER.” We learn the backstory and some of his relationships as he goes on his killing spree and meets with people, but it’s a pretty minimalistic character, low on words and quirks. The story alternates between him and two other lead characters: Billy Bob Thornton as “COP” and Oliver Jackson-Cohen as “KILLER.”

It’s also a very visual movie, especially in the way it establishes this Killer guy. The camera pans across his wall of photos as he does an impossibly difficult yoga workout (he later tells his girlfriend, the daughter from TAKEN, that he “beat yoga.”) From the photos we learn that he was some kind of young investment hotshot, he climbs mountains, he was a kickboxer (sadly another unfulfilled promise of climactic martial arts duel – somebody’s gotta teach some action movie manners to these modern filmatists).

Killer is like a less creepy Patrick Bateman. He lives in a mansion, drives a Ferrari, is impossibly toned, has a pretty girlfriend who spends her time lounging by their pool. And he’s all the more hatable because he’s not as evil or sadistic as you’d think. He’s just an overachiever that likes a good challenge. And of course that’s what he gets when somebody hires him to kill this Driver. It’s gonna be difficult.

Cop is actually the most interesting character. He’s introduced making a desperate drug buy in a restroom before we see his badge. I expected an over-the-top sleazy dirty cop villain. Obviously Billy Bob could go to town on a role like that. But after we see he’s a junkie and a fuckup and hated by the other cops including chief-expositionist Carla Gugino (who can explain the plot to me any time, in my opinion) we see him in his fucked up home life. You know the drill: he’s late picking up his son, his ex bitches at him, then while he’s driving his son to the baseball game he’s right in the middle of making some promise and gets a call about another shooting he has to investigate immediately…

…but he decides his son is more important, goes to the game and shows up at the crime scene two hours late! No shit! So after that, no matter what he did, I still kind of liked him. ‘Cause he went to the baseball game.

That’s the clever thing about the movie. It starts out with these exaggerated, larger than life archetype-type characters, but as it goes on we realize they aren’t really good guys and bad guys. Actually they’re all bad, but with a soft spot.

Driver is the most cartoonish. The Rock looks pumped-up to wrestler size again. Honestly I think his muscles are too big for this one. It’s kind of hard to take him seriously, he’s such a monster. I mean, what guy looks like that and then his specialty is driving? I got a hunch he would be better at other things. It’s to the point where it could be a detriment ’cause he’s gonna have a hard time fitting in the car. His arms are gonna bump against the inside of the door and mess up his steering.

And while I appreciate his fearlessness, killing in front of witnesses and staring straight into the security camera, I feel like there’s gotta be some serious incompetence in the police force for him to be getting away with all this for so long. How the fuck are they not finding a giant muscleman who’s making no effort to hide himself, who’s wearing a sleeveless shirt to show his huge, distinctive tattoos, and is driving a badass early ’70s Chevelle with a show-offy racing stripe? In my opinion this should be an easy suspect to locate.

In a flashback we learn that Driver wasn’t always a killing machine, or even a getaway driver. His brother was the criminal, he only went on the job to help him out because his brother was in debt to some dangerous people. (And by the way, hat’s off to this guy Matt Gerald for being able to play The Rock’s big brother.) The flashback is a little goofy because Rock has to act scared to show his earlier innocence, but he looks like he could kill most of these guys just by banging their heads against his biceps. Also because in the post-robbery chase scene he’s mostly driving in reverse. I didn’t really understand why unless it was his audition for the FAST AND FURIOUS movie.

But there are lots of subtle things that make this movie better than I expected. Usually in a movie like this everybody would be hostile to him until he humiliated them. He’d have to show them who’s boss. Think of the scene in PAYBACK where Porter’s trying to get past security to talk to Stegman and this huge dude looks like he’s gonna crush him, but then it cuts to the embarrassed thug walking into the other room with blood dripping down the side of his head. In FASTER he goes to a strip club to kill a guy, nobody knows he’s trouble. The bouncers are nice to him, they joke around with him like he’s their buddy.

Inside the club he ends up with a duel in the restroom, and his opponent tells Joe, the elderly bathroom attendant, to go outside and guard the door. And to not tell anybody what happened here. I love that type of shit.

It doesn’t seem like any type of a Tarantino rip-off, but I bet it was KILL BILL that inspired some of this circle-of-vengeance-melodrama, like the one guy’s son swearing revenge on Driver for getting revenge on his dad, and the multiple characters who seem to welcome their deaths as inevitable justice sort of like Budd did (“That woman deserves her revenge, and we deserve to die.”) But I don’t mind if that’s where they got it from. It’s good shit.

The one artistic choice that seems a little cheap to me is the Cop’s slow-motion walk set to “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. It’s a great song but come on man, THE BIG LEBOWSKI owns that one. You can’t use that anymore. Again, you gotta learn your manners.

I enjoyed this movie, and it’s exciting to see The Rock in an R-rated action movie. But to be honest this is not the best role for him at this point, it seems more like an early-in-the-career character before he had proven himself as an actor. I mean he’s pretty much playing a Terminator. When I first saw The Rock in THE RUNDOWN I thought holy shit, this guy is a cartoon superhuman but he’s completely charming. This one just stays at cartoon superhuman, no charisma necessary. He can do that, but it’s not what makes him a great action hero. It’s missing one of his dimensions. There are any number of wrestlers that could’ve done this role pretty much the same.

Also, this is weird but it’s not much of a driving movie. I’m not sure why it’s called FASTER. He does drive from destination to destination, but most of the action is on foot, with guns and a little bit of the 52 style close-quarters combat.

Despite these misgivings I think FASTER is a solid modern action movie with an admirable balance of respecting-the-classics and putting-a-new-spin-on-it. Admittedly I had low expectations based on what people told me about it, but it was better than I expected.

We never did find out what happened with the kid’s baseball team though.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 27th, 2011 at 2:39 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

30 Responses to “Faster”

  1. Low expectations work every time.

  2. Hmm, wasn`t the characters in Walter Hills DRIVER called the driver, the cop and the killer?

    Anyway, it sounds good and The Rock acting scared was the highlight in SOUTHLAND TALES, so I`ll check out.

  3. I liked this movie very much! Not some goofy, over-the-top action extravaganza, just a good ol’ fashioned revenge tale with nice action scenes. Now I respect Dwayne Johnson much more then before.

  4. Knox Harrington

    April 27th, 2011 at 4:51 am

    Gotta love that tagline.
    “Justice is swift. Vengeance is FASTER”

    Brilliant.

    They should apply a reverse tagline to Johnnie To’s Vengeance.
    “Sure, justice is swift. But you know what’s even faster? VENGEANCE!”

  5. I look on this movie as The Rock having to re-earn his action credentials, after years in the Disney family-orientated-comedy wilderness. My favourite scene is when he goes to some guy who owes him money, and he sets this big Samoan dude on him. But before anything goes down the Samoan clocks Drivers tattoos on his arm and realises who he is, quietly shits himself and respectfully gets the hell out of the way!

  6. Right around the time they had the second shootout in a hallway where somebody has a clear shot at Jimmy Faster’s massive back and misses, I checked out of this movie. I appreciated the quirky, unpredictable characters and earnest commitment to badass mythologizing, but it just did not deliver on an action level. Don’t even get me started on that non-climax. What is it with modern action movies (THE MECHANIC, I’m looking at you) dropping the ball on their finales? And for a movie called FASTER, he sure does take his time, doesn’t he? Sure, he goes right for that first kill, but then he takes like four days to find the rest. With that title you kind of want to see him displaying a little haste.

  7. I enjoyed the shit out of this.

    A very lean, and very mean little actioner. Gruff men with gruff codes of honor, The Rock basically going Terminator on the men who wronged him, all a totally fun way to spend ninety minutes.

    There were small character moments, but it didn’t feel they slowed things down or were any way superfluous. The whole package was just a fast moving no-bullshit revenge film barreling forward like a freight train.

    Sure, the DTV world is full of these revenge flicks – but one that is filled with a really solid cast, an actually decent script, no punches pulled violence, and looking like actual money was spent on the production?

    Films like this are rare these days.

  8. I really wanted to like this – The Rock (fuck it, I’m not calling him “Dwayne”, that’s just wrong) is damn good in it – but it seems to be striving to be “more” than an action film, and fails, I think. I got the feeling the makers were trying for a deconstructive action film but then realised they didn’t really know what that actually meant.

    The trailer was very good at wrong-footing people – I, like most, was expecting an actionfest and what we got instead was a slow, meditative story about revenge and redemption – two real MEN’S FILM THEMES.

    I’m all for those, of course, but what killed it for me was it’s deathly slow pace, coupled with character beats were just too corny – if you’re gonna steal from THE DRIVER you’d better be very good indeed not to look dumb and it should be made law that you can’t use “Just Dropped In” in any film that doesn’t have the name Lebowski in the title.

    All it really did was make me wish I watching FAST FIVE instead.

  9. I’m with you, Karlos. It was all good fun until it decided it was ABOUT something.

  10. As a side note, The Rock actually has the rights to use the name “The Rock” if he wants. Apparently, when he left WWF/WWE, he managed to convince Vince McMahon to give him the rights to it, he only started going by his real name because he was wanting to be taken serious as an actor and not automatically be associated with being a “wrestler”.

  11. Jareth Cutestory

    April 27th, 2011 at 11:00 am

    One day someone is going to make the CRASH of revenge movies: several interconnecting narrative variations of the theme of vengence. They’ll have a woman taking revenge on the guy who sexually assaulted her, and the wimpy guy who goes ballistic on the auditor who messed up his tax return. There will be an anarchistic Unabomber type guy. And probably a postal worker.

    It’ll be bloody meyhem for two hours.

    FASTER felt like one orphaned strand of that hypothtical movie.

  12. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    April 27th, 2011 at 11:59 am

    This is great news for me! I watched the trailer and thought it looked great and then it never came out in the UK. Gonna track this down and give it a watch.
    It does sound like Stone Cold would have been better suited to this, but I really like Johnson as an actor, I wish he did more action movies like The Rundown.

  13. Just got back from Fast Five/Thor double bill (F5 been out here in UK for a week).

    All I’m gonna say is………….holy shit the action in F5 is awesome, and adding Mr Rock to the cast is an absolute masterstroke. I look forward to your review Vern.

    MikeOutWest – my fave scene in the movie as well.

  14. I really loved how this one started with Mr Rock marching out of prison and heading directly to telemarketer guy like he was The Terminator. His head looked like someone had drawn an angry face on a bullet.

    I’m willing to forgive a lot for an opening like that, not the theft of Lebowski’s tune, but a lot of other stuff.

  15. The Rock isn’t even a trademark of World Wrestling Entertainment anymore, as they’ve changed their name to just “WWE” now, to de-emphasise the wrestling aspect of their business. Yeah.

  16. caruso_stalker217

    April 27th, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    This movie wasn’t very good, I thought. Too much time was spent on the dumbass GQ model hitman story and the main character wasn’t really developed at all. Billy Bob doesn’t have much going for him either. They should’ve cast Ray Liotta or Michael Madsen as the cop. Somebody who really knows how to cash a check.

  17. For most of the run time, this is a great “rampage” movie. (See also: OUT FOR JUSTICE, PAYBACK, TAKEN, RAMBO IV, and if we’re being honest, FRIDAY THE 13th PART VII.) My favourite genre.

    Invincible giant crushes everything in his way.

    Then in act three, the characters have been developed too honestly, and the film must admit that rampages are, after all, kind of evil. Especially when the people you want to kill are sincerely sorry.

    This managed to both be entertaining on the action level, and not talk down to my brain or moral sensibilities. It said, “Hey, it’s not 10 or 20 years ago any more. We’ve had time to meditate on this shit, and it’s complicated. And muscular.”

    And the Rock’s gun was Very Very Loud in the movie theatre, which was awesome.

  18. I really liked it, I think. I haven’t seen it since I saw it in the theatre last year, but from memory there were things I liked. Like the guy who had become a christian pastor and had obviously turned his life around and was doing good, and the kind of moral dilemma the Driver then had to face, I remember liking that.
    And Fast Five, it’s the Greatest Movie Ever.
    Which is objectively not true, but that’s what I felt like when I was watching it, and the feeling still persists a week later.
    Sorry if that builds it up and you think it sucks because of that.

  19. Jareth Cutestory:

    So if I steal your story idea, sell the script, and make big pile of cash off of your “Crash”-revenge flick, will you get revenge on me? Or is that just too meta? Or perhaps that’s the plot of part 2?

    Will part 3 be a cutesy “Scream” meets “Crash”-revenge flick where everyone in the movie is oh so cutesy wise as to the conventions of revenge flicks, even as revenge is enacted on them?

  20. I thought it was weird Carla Gugino was re-teamed with The Rock again after playing his love interest in Witch Mountain (I think that and The Scorpion King are The Rock’s least interesting performances btw). Except here (SPOILER) I’m pretty sure she never shares a scene with him. I was hoping for the next Hanks/Ryan.

    Also SUPER SPOILER, I liked this movie overall but it did telegraph it’s biggest plot twist a little bit too early. And it cheated to cover it up too (via the voice on the phone). Oh, also – anyone know where the deleted scenes are? There’s an ENTIRELY different ending people keep talking about (you can see it in the trailer) but there wasn’t jack on my Redbox DVD.

  21. D.S – that’s an interesting point dude. I had the same problem with my… ahem… alternate title. Did you know I had a second life? Yes, while I may be a congenial if rather spoilt billionaire playboy by day, I actually spend my nights writing Mills & Boon romance novels for lonely women in their fourties and fifties. (And not dressing up like a giant bat and going out to catch lowlife scum. No siree, I wouldn’t do anything like that. In fact, dressing up like a bat and catching thugs is WRONG.) Anyway, if people knew my… erm… pen name… well let’s just say that I might lose some of the respect I’ve earned from the billionaire playboy thing.

    So yeah, I can sympathize with Dwayne Johnson. He and I should go out to dinner together one night, perhaps discuss the best way to place a ne’er-do-well into a perfect guilloutine choke-hold, that kind of thing. Not that I would ever need to do that to anybody. You understand.

  22. I also really enjoyed this one. Some good, old-fashioned badassery on show. The only problem was the ending. (Spoiler) They spent a long time developing the character of “the killer” only for him to not do anything, and not really show any skills. Also, i know that forgiveness is good but i would prefer it if Driver followed through on his mission. Sometimes a person just has to pay his dues, no matter how much he’s changed for the better. Guess that kind of ending doesn’t sell very well.

  23. Jareth Cutestory

    April 28th, 2011 at 8:57 am

    BR Baraka: The idea for the Ultimate Revenge Movie yours to run with. I trust your badass credentials. I’ll only seek meta-revenge if you cast Tom Cruise.

    Majestyk: If you haven’t already seen it, you might enjoy RUN BITCH RUN as counter-programing to all these revenge flicks with brains in their heads.

  24. I’ve seen it. It’s okay. It’s just never as sleazy as it thinks it’s being. That’s what happens when you let a nerd do a pervert’s job.

  25. Jareth Cutestory

    April 28th, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Well put, Mr. M. I can’t disagree with that description.

    Was HUMAN CENTIPEDE a pervert doing a nerd’s job?

    Unrelated: did you ever see that Belgian horror film CALVAIRE? I thought that was another well made genre film that didn’t waste time with too much thinking.

  26. Knox Harrington

    April 29th, 2011 at 2:02 am

    So I watched Faster last night. I enjoyed it, but it’s just another example of why I should never watch deleted scenes on a DVD.

    Once again the alternate ending is way better than the one they let the test audience pick in the end. I almost always like the alternate ending more (two other examples being The Ruins and Scott Pilgrim) and it ends up spoiling the movie for me. It just sends the message that they had no idea what the hell they wanted to do in the first place. Try sticking to your guns every once in a while, you filmmaking sissies.

    Note to self: Stop watching deleted scenes.

  27. – Jareth

    I`ve tried to watch RUN! BITCH RUN! several times, but it just seems like a poorly made movie. I love explotation from the sixties and seventies, good or bad, and several of my favoritemovies are so-called grindhouse-features; Toys are not for children, Thundercrack!, !!Aroused!!, movies by Russ Meyer, Radley Metzger, Jack Hill, Fulci, Sergio Martino. I even watch stuff by Joe D`amato, Jess Franco and Jean Rollin.

    I love that explotation has had a sort of revival in the last few years, but the new batch of exploitation-filmmakers and fans appearently think that they have to make a bad movie to be true to the spirit of exploitation. When I read about movies like RUN! BITCH RUN! on imdb, its fans praise it for being badly written, badly acted and badly shot like all those bad exploitationmovies we love so much (?!).

    I thought fans of exploitation loved grindhouse-features because they actually have great cinematic value once in a while; the acting of Jack Hill`s movies, the script and editing of Russ Meyer, the genuine erotiscm of Radley Metzger or truly great transgressive cinema like Thundercrack!, A Womans Torment and Penetrations (eh.. in this case transgressive cinema appearently means porn with a purpose, but if I bothered I could proberly find better examples. The problem is that a lot of the transgressive classics are welknown and appriciated today; Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Repulsion, Cannibal Holocoust, Possession, Witchfinder General etc..)

    Now, how come the so-called fans of exploitation have so low regards for this genre that they applaud bad movies like RUN! BITCH RUN!, AMATERUR PORN STAR KILLER, NUNS WITH GUNS, MACHETE and MURDER SET PIECES, when directors like Quentin Tarantino, Rob Zombie, Eli Roth, Tue West and Jim van Bebber have proved that you can make great exploitation cinema?

    Or, in short, which qualities have I missed when I watched RUN! BITCH RUN! ?

    (and I apologize for the use of the term Grindhouse..)

  28. Sadly you can’t really trust the so-called ironic generation. When I saw Woo’s The Killer in the early 90’s a lot of people in the audience pissed themselves laughing, like they knew something I didn’t.

  29. I laughed all the way through Hardboiled, but because the action was so insane that I couldn`t believe my own eyes. I didn`t laugh because I found it lame or silly, I had just never seen anything as excilirating before.

    Ì think that there`s a big difference between the so-called ironic generation of the nineties and the so-called “hipsters” of today. The nineties were all about finding quality in crap, like dressing in used clothes because you thought it looked cool, or listening to trashy rock because you thought it was great music. It was all about finding hidden gems that cost a fraction of what society declared good taste. Alternative music, independent cinema, grunge-clothes etc weren`t popular because it was funny or weird, but because people geniunenly likes it.

    The kids nowadys… Jeez, I don`t know where to start. The like stuff because it`s bad. Does anybody with a ironic moustache really think it looks cool?

    A lot of people I know like crappy reality tv-shows, celebreties with no talent and movies with no reedeming quilities, because they think they are being ironic. Or maybe that`s their excuse for enjoying crap instead of putting the effort into entertainment that requires more than five seconds of mental energy. Goddamn hipsters! When I was young..(etc…)

  30. Can I just ask one question. What the heck was the bloody point of having Berenger in this movie? One bloody scene, where half his bloody dialogue is muted as The R… sorry… Johnson tunes him out? It’s the equivalent of Seagal in Against the Dark aka Against the hilariously bad zombie actor people.

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