The Rock memorizes some nine lines of dialogue and gets to work killing stuff in Faster, a revenge-based action movie built around the concept “Rock want smash.”
And if Dwayne Johnson had ever actually said “Rock want smash” in the movie, it would have been one of his longer speeches.
We first see the character identified mostly as Driver (Johnson) pacing his jail cell, looking like an angry bull raring to trample some tourists. As soon as the prison gate opens, he runs to the car that will take him from one person to the next, exacting (as we eventually figure out) revenge on the people he holds responsible for his brother’s death. Because this brand of justice leaves bodies in its wake, the Driver soon has a Cop (Billy Bob Thornton) on his tail. This shady-seeming law enforcement officer (in his last few days before retirement — but of course) has problems of his own, including his untrusting partner (Carla Gugino) and his angry, divorce-seeking wife, Marina (Moon Bloodgood).
In addition to a seething need for vengeance and having Johnny Law on the chase for him, Driver is being hunted himself by a computer genius turned psychokiller (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Seems one of Driver’s potential victims is getting proactive.
Few character names, slender threads of plot, wisps of character motivation, lines of dialogue consisting of only one word — Faster has pared down the revenge movie to its barest elements, leaving the most room possible for fighting and killing. At times, this works perfectly. Car chases, fight scenes, shootouts — these are the reasons you’d see a movie like Faster to begin with. (And, incidentally, while the movie does have some speedy driving, “faster” isn’t particularly meaningful as a title — “angrier” or “muscley-er” would have fit better. On the other hand, in this why-waste-time-with-words affair, “faster” works as well as any other random word.)
My quibbles with Faster don’t come from its sparseness or its laser focus on the tough-guy stuff. There was at times something grim and unfun about the movie’s approach, and a sudden burst of plot near the end muddles things just at the moment when you’re looking for the most impact. There is very little joy about this movie, very little excitement in how it’s put together. A movie doesn’t have to be all clowns and monkeys to be fun and energetic, but Faster is frequently dull and plodding where it should be speedy and lively.
Faster offers plenty of nonstop action but not quite enough fun. C+
Rated R for strong violence, some drug use and language. Directed by George Tillman Jr. and written by Tony Gayton and Joe Gayton, Faster is an hour and 38 minutes long and distributed in wide release by CBS Films.