Faster is a throwback to the action films of the 1970s, from the production color schemes to the film stock and camera angles utilized by cinematographer Michael Grady. If you’re not familiar with classics like Shaft, The French Connection, Dirty Harry, Enter the Dragon and the original Walking Tall, however, you might find yourself a bit confused by the unrelentingly serious and aggressive feel of the film.
There are no humorous interludes, not much of a love interest, just a story of revenge.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays Driver, a tough-as-nails hoodlum we first meet on the day he’s being released after 10 years in a maximum security prison. Upon release he runs a few miles into town because there’s no one at the prison gates to meet him. From his first minutes of freedom, he’s focused on tracking down the crooks who double-crossed his gang, killing his much-loved kid brother and leaving him bleeding to death.
Billy Bob Thornton plays the policeman trying to track down Driver, a role he’s played in countless films. He’s an imperfect slob, creatively named Cop, but his relationship with Driver proves surprisingly complex as their cat-and-mouse game defines the tension of the film.
Thornton is days away from his retirement (another genre trope), and it’s his younger partner, Cicero (Carla Gugino) who is the most straightforward, unambiguous character in the film. She’s tough, persistent, and furious that she’s been saddled with lazy slacker Cop on her case due to department politics.
Plot isn’t the strong point of Faster, with some gaping issues like the puzzle of how a two-bit hood assembled his neatly typed list of the group that killed Driver’s beloved brother.
Adding confusion to the story, movie-star handsome hit man Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) has been hired to track down and kill Driver. Killer is a perfectionist hit man who does the work for the excitement of the chase, and he’s shocked when Driver proves hard to kill, whining to his gorgeous girlfriend Lily (Maggie Grace) when his attempts fail.
The film is ultimately a three-way chase between Thornton as Cop, Jackson-Cohen as Killer and Johnson as Driver, and it’s satisfying in that light. There’s no deep meaning, no romantic interest, and barely any time for character development, but as in the ’70s action films, Faster is about the chase, about the protagonist unraveling the conspiracy and avenging the murder of his dearly departed brother.
This is not a complicated film. I’m an unabashed action film fan. I like the genre and the simple storyline, revenge and redemption, earnest criminals caught up in difficult situations, forced to find their own solutions. If there’s some collateral damage along the way, all will be forgiven as the ultimate denouement is unveiled. If that sounds appealing, you’ll definitely want to catch Faster on a big screen.