Dwayne Johnson is a man of few words and many bullets in "Faster," an action film designed to re-invent the kid-friendly ex-wrestler as one bad mutha and relaunch the stumbling CBS Films by finding one genre the company can get right.
It pretty much fails at both with a poor George Tillman imitation of the early blood and Biblical imagery shoot-em-ups of John Woo.
A shirtless, scarred convict ID’d as “Driver,” Johnson half-listens to a religious harangue from his warden (Tom Berenger) before asking, “Where’s the exit?”
He’s out of prison and on a mission, picking up a vintage Chevelle SS, a snub-nosed revolver and a list of names and addresses. He wants revenge on the guys who ambushed his bank job crew and murdered his brother. Driver hunts them down and shoots them without so much as a pithy one-liner of warning.
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We catch up with “Cop” (Billy Bob Thornton) as he’s scoring heroin in a back alley. Not for a bust, but for personal consumption. He’s soon paired up with another cop (Carla Gugino, Johnson’s “Race to Witch Mountain” co-star) and they’re on the case, one step behind the shooter.
Then there’s “Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a hit-man with a taste for blondes, Italian super-cars and guns of every description. He’s hired to stop the avenging get-away driver. Killer confesses his insecurities to his therapist by BlueTooth, promises to settle down with his too-hot girlfriend and generally derails whatever lean, mean momentum this movie has pretty much the moment he arrives.
“I’m bored,” he confesses. “But that’s only part of it.”
No, that’s most of it, and the reason I rolled my eyes every time he male-models his way back onscreen.
Johnson shed his charm for this role, a calculated risk seeing as how that’s what has separated him from the other muscleheads to graduate from the stage – the WWE – to the screen. Thornton does strung-out-and-ready-to-retire well, until you remember that junkies don’t live to retirement age. Most of them. Jackson-Cohen is just British eye-candy.
The quarries of the Driver are colorless characters with no back story. The killings aren’t epic brawls. Random scenes show off the car, the revolver and the Driver’s scars.
After 100 not–so-fast minutes, “Faster” reaches a climax that’s barely a climax at all.
* 1/2 * * *
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Carla Gugino
Director: George Tillman
Running time: 1:38
Rating: R; strong violence, drug use and language