Dwaynegerous – Faster review

Faster – Starring Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton and Oliver Jackson-Cohen. Directed by George Tillman Jr. Rated MA. By Simon Miraudo.

It has taken almost an entire decade for Dwayne Johnson to shed his wrestling moniker and be recognised by audiences as an “ac-tor” with a regular name minus any definite articles. He’s proven in the past that he is a talented, charismatic performer (although, being ‘the only good thing about Be Cool’ is hardly high praise). He seemed poised to take the throne as Hollywood’s new favourite action hero. Not so any more. In the past few years, he’s embraced lackluster actioners and condescending, unfunny children’s films, as if he stumbled upon – and subsequently stole – a pile of scripts left in Vin Diesel bathroom. He’s wasting both our time and his own with lazy films like his latest picture Faster. As punishment, he is hereby demoted, and shall from now on be referred to, once again, as The Rock.

Faster is many things; none good. It’s a languid, sub-CSI police procedural intertwined with a sluggish revenge flick and drizzled with the inane relationship dramas of a newly married hitman struggling to figure out his work/life balance. The Rock stars as Driver, a recently released ex-con who goes on a vengeance-soaked killing spree. Billy Bob Thornton (rocking one hell of a toupée) plays Cop, the drug-addled detective hunting Driver down. As he frequently reminds us, Cop is but a week away from retirement, thereby sealing his fate for anyone who has ever watched any movie about policemen before, ever. Oliver Jackson-Cohen stars as Killer, an assassin hired by a mysterious employer to take out Driver. His cell phone ringtone is Ennio Morricone’s legendary theme to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. You would think that it is included here to contrast Driver, Cop and Killer with the famous trio from Leone’s film. I have another theory: Faster is so ineptly made, director George Tillman Jr. felt it necessary to insert a vague, not-totally-relevant reference to a far better film, to imply that Faster had, at least ostensibly, a good film as its source of inspiration.

This tiresome movie – without a single satisfying action scene, a torrent of needless exposition and a slew of wasted performers (who I won’t shame by naming) – has one ace up its sleeve: the central mystery regarding Driver’s motives. Why is he hunting down a series of seemingly unrelated creeps (telemarketer, pedophile, priest etc.) and executing them? It’s a genuinely intriguing premise. Well, unfurrow those brows. It’s revealed within the first 30 minutes (they killed his half-brother Gary), allowing audiences to completely relieve themselves of any cognitive problem solving for the remainder of the film. The ‘final shocking twist’ is ridiculous, not in the sense that it’s unbelievable, but in the sense that screenwriters Tony and Joe Gayton thought viewers would actually be surprised by it.

I’m looking at my frantically scribbled notes on the film and I’m having trouble organising them into a coherent argument as to why this film is terrible. So, in the spirit of Faster’s incoherent, faux-smart laziness, allow me to simply rattle off the remaining parts of the picture that annoyed me. There is no sense of time. The events take place over a week. Killer marries his girlfriend on the third day, with the caveat that he give up the hitman-game mid-contract. He suggests the career change, and he seems genuinely happy with his decision. Later that night, he reneges, and his new bride acts like the slighted first wife of a rocker in a music biopic. “You used to be attracted to what I do,” he complains. “I’m your wife now,” she angrily responds. Geez, they’re six hours into this marriage; I don’t think it’s going to last. What else have we got…. oh yeah, The Rock survives two gunshots to the head in this movie. That’s stupid. Umm, the hitman has the only psychiatrist in the world that will provide consultation (and medical advice!) over the phone. Also stupid. There is a rather bizarre subplot involving Cop and his chubby son regarding the latter’s ability to play baseball. Ooh, and this too: Faster commits an egregious sin of movie-thievery when it features “Just Dropped In” by Kenny Rogers over Cop’s slow-mo entrance. Did someone see the Gutterballs sequence from The Big Lebowski, where Just Dropped In is used so memorably, and feel it would be an adequate inclusion here. I suppose the rights to any song is potentially up for grabs, and anything can be recontextualised from film-to-film. But come on.

I wasn’t surprised Faster was stupid (although I had privately hoped it would be secretly smart and fun like the ultraviolent action comedy Crank). I was however surprised to find that the movie thought itself to be deep. There are frequent references throughout the film to redemption, forgiveness, faith and renewal, as Driver is forced to choose between following God’s path of peacefulness or brutally decimating his half-brother’s killers. He settles on a happy compromise between the two. Sheesh, this movie can’t even convey a coherent ideology! I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that the execution of these themes of redemption is supremely hackneyed. The only remotely interesting thing about the picture (and even this is a stretch) is the rampant homoerotic subtext between Driver and his half-brother. I couldn’t help but feel there was something going on behind the eyes of The Rock every time he looked at a picture of him and Gary – which happens more often than you would think – that implied something closer than fraternal love. Perhaps in an earlier iteration of the script, Driver avenges the death of his gay lover, rather than his weirdly-close brother. I wish I had seen that movie instead; at least it would have offered a new twist on the genre. Instead, we have this, a film whose hardest worker is the wig clasping desperately to Billy Bob’s scalp.


Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

Faster is showing in cinemas across Australia now.

One Response to “Dwaynegerous – Faster review”

  1. >I didn't dislike it as much as you but was still mortally disappointed at the way it all played out. I also thought there was a huge homoerotic subtext going on in the way he kept staring at that photograph of what turned out to be his half-brother. For the first 30 minutes I was actually getting quite excited at the prospect that a revenge film of such machismo could be fueled by a homosexual relationship. Sadly it probably was not a solid allusion but more likely a limitation in The Rock's ability to emote properly. Still… An amusing prospect…

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