by Roxana Hadadi
What is there to say about “Faster”? If you’ve seen “The Crow,” you’ve seen this film. If you’ve seen “Kill Bill,” you’ve seen this film. If you’ve seen “Man on Fire,” you’ve seen this film. Basically if you’ve seen any movie about revenge, vengeance or injustice, you’ve seen this film.
So unfortunately, “Faster” is painful. You know what’s going to happen immediately after sitting down in the theater; director George Tillman Jr. (who previously put together 1997’s “Soul Food” and 2009’s “Notorious”) doesn’t deliver any surprises. The film is basically exactly what you’d expect – and the thrills, delivered by rapid shootouts with tons of blood spatter, aren’t nearly exciting enough to validate the been-there, done-that nature of the storyline.
The plot is simple enough: James Cullen (Dwayne Johnson), first introduced as “Driver,” is released from prison after serving 10 years for his role in a bank robbery and instantaneously starts killing people, tracking down those responsible for murdering his half-brother (Matt Gerald). Though he’s being followed by a professional hit man, or “Killer” (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), and various police detectives, including the heroin-addicted Slade Humphries (Billy Bob Thornton), or “Cop,” and the brusque Cicero (Carla Gugino), he always manages to get away just in time to embark on his next murderous mission. Driver’s ex-girlfriend (Jennifer Carpenter) screams that she hopes he “kills them all,” and he’s taking that advice seriously.
But it’s hard to care about the characters onscreen when they’re nothing more than their image or actions. Character development isn’t present anywhere in “Faster,” so don’t go looking for it. Instead, you get vignettes slapped together to sketch outlines of characters, but nothing deeper, nothing to make you think of these people as flesh and blood.
For example, Driver scares off investigator Roy Grone’s (Mike Epps) bodyguard because of his tattoos that describe the men he harmed in prison, but why was Driver given so much crap in the first place? Driver carries around a picture of him and his half-brother and discusses how much he revered him, but what about their relationship was so inspirational? Driver meets up with his ex to see that she’s moved on with a husband and two children, but why does the film make it seem like he’s considering killing her? There’s no point to that bit of suspense, just as there’s little thought given to anything else in the film.
And “Faster” jumps too easily from storyline to storyline to make the film feel at all cohesive. Things begin with Driver (also, it’s really annoying that the film makes audience members work to pick up on the characters’ real names, if they’re given them at all) getting out of prison and jogging miles to an auto shop to pick up his car and drive to an office building to kill his first victim – but then jumps to Slade, buying heroin off a dealer in a bathroom and getting high – and then back to Driver, who’s getting the names of future victims from Roy – and then to Killer, who’s practicing insane yoga poses in his huge house, where we learn from framed magazine covers and photographs that he was a crippled child who overcame his physical limitations, became a software genius, sold his first company for $44 million pounds and transitioned into professional killing as a new personal challenge for himself. Scenes shift between characters so often that there’s no time to focus – and therefore no need to sympathize or empathize with anyone onscreen. Revenge films bank on the audience’s desire for the bad guys to get what they deserve, but the lack of any emotion in “Faster” invalidates that point.
For younger teens, the violence (both literal, like close-up scenes of slit throats, bullet wounds to the forehead, stab wounds and DIY stitches, and implied, like snuff films) and drug use certainly isn’t appropriate, and nearly all the characters make horrible choices that aren’t at all role-model-like. Older teens may be able to handle the gore and cursing, but why would they want to? “Faster” is nothing we haven’t seen already.
Faster is Rated R.