MARCH 3, 2011

Here’s what “Faster” had going for it before viewing the film. The trailer made it look like a make-and-model revenge flick, much like “The Punisher” with Thomas Jane and John Travolta. The trailer presented the film as a “Fast & Furious” with Dwayne Johnson taking over for Vin Diesel as the big man badass. The film ended up possessing nothing more than Dwayne Johnson getting released from jail and generically working down a list of people to murder with a halfhearted homage to “the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”

You have got to give Dwayne Johnson credit; this was not “Tooth Fairy” or “Game Plan.” Johnson is following his “Walking Hard” and “The Rundown” semi-successes, using his professional wrestling persona. The man looks like a machine and embodies Arnold Swarzenegger from “The Terminator.” But much in the same respect, the illusion is broken as soon as he opens his mouth.

As the film delves into the younger version of Johnson’s character, “Faster” becomes laughable. Trying to pass Johnson off as a young and naïve adolescent was ill-advised and unconvincing. If anything, they should have set the film around Johnson being the older brother and having to watch his younger brother die instead of vice versa. That holds much more weight than a younger sibling’s redemption.

Trying to recreate the “Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” stand-off was not a good idea. It came off anti-climatic, especially with the “surprising” revelations visible from an hour before the climax. Not just simply the “major” bombshell has been figured out before the end, but even the minor ones.

Billy Bob Thornton appears to be phoning his part (or lack thereof). The motivations behind his character’s actions are generic and tossed together and none of the revelations ever really hold much weight. Oliver Jackson-Cohen makes his action film debut a little too enthusiastically and had this been a different feeling film (say a graphic novel interpretation) the film would have made more sense with his eccentric hitman character. Even with Carla Gugino and Tom Berenger, the film fails to hit as hard as it could have.

The only scene that impacted was the lead-up and culmination of the preacher portion of the film. It took this long to get emotions inserted into the film, and the dialogue became well-written and delivered. The pacing at this point exploded in a glorious mixture of suspense and turning point. The sermons were pertinent, and the appearance of sheer fear on the face of the preacher leading to his intended demise on the shores of an oddly placed lake was by far the best acting in the entire film (and that is probably not saying much).

If this film were to get any awards, it would have to be for the sound design team. Not often do you view a movie and are constantly drawn into the remarkable sound design of the film. All the minor sound effects become amplified to the point of appreciation with the ticking of a clock, the sizzling of an engine after running hot, and all the car noises that you could possibly devour. Watch the film, pay close attention to the sound, and try to tell me that this is not the best part of the film.

The action genre is getting to the point where you must enter with the low expectations of simply watching the generic action stars kill villains, blow up cars, and generally kick ass all over the place, with no recognizable depth of content. “Expendables” and “The A-Team” entirely relied on this logic of remaining mindless action fests. “Faster” is no different. You won’t be disappointed if you don’t expect much walking in. Still, from now on, it will be hard for me to get my hopes up for any anticipated future release action film without starting immediately with a baseline disappointment at the overall state of the genre.

November 24, 2010

George Tillman Jr.

Tony Gayton
Joe Gayton

CBS Films

(for strong violence, some drug use and language)

98 minutes

Michael Grady

Clint Mansell

Dirk Westervelt

Dwayne Johnson
Billy Bob Thornton
Oliver Jackson-Cohen
Carla Gugino
Maggie Grace
Moon Bloodgood
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Tom Berenger
Mike Epps
Xander Berkeley
Jennifer Carpenter
Michael Irby

Martin Shafer
Liz Glotzer
Tony Gayton
Robert Teitel

$24 million

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