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Review

Action film loses fizz as secondary characters divert away from plot

Michael Brun

December 2, 2010

It’s ironic that a movie called “Faster” actually slows down as it progresses. What starts as an efficient revenge thriller branches out into a complex character study of morality and forgiveness.

However, while I may have been chanting, “Faster, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson! Kill! Kill!” by the film’s midpoint, the unexpected final act makes the slower parts worthwhile.

The premise of “Faster” is standard revenge movie fare. Johnson is forced to watch as his bank robber brother is murdered by a disgruntled crew. He vows bloody revenge before getting shot execution style and left for dead.

But he gets better— and, after a decade of training courtesy of the California Department of Corrections—he sets off to layeth the smacketh down on the unsuspecting thugs.

I was nervous going into “Faster” that I would not be able to take Johnson seriously in an action movie. The last time we saw him in a starring role, he was prancing around with feathery wings in “Tooth Fairy.” But what I saw on the screen was a far cry from the lighthearted, eyebrow-raising Rock of recent years.
His new look is the very image of sullen rage; he is a brooding behemoth that looks like he could snap a man’s spine like a twig.

In a world where actors like Adrien Brody and Channing Tatum can pass as action heroes, it is refreshing to see the kind of unrealistically buff leading man of yesteryear.

Although Johnson’s quest for revenge is the core of the movie, it fights for screen time with the stories of two side characters.

First is a detective (Billy Bob Thornton) charged with bringing Johnson to justice. Second is a murder-for-hobby assassin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) hired by an unknown client to put an end to Johnson’s killing spree.

These secondary characters attempt to add substance to an otherwise one-note plot, but the results are a mixed bag. For instance, Thornton’s detective is a walking cliché.

Going down the list: he is a drug addict, has an estranged wife and is only a few days away from retirement.

Meanwhile, Jackson-Cohen never manages to fit in with the rest of the cast. His outrageous character—an ultra-rich adventurer that became a hitman out of boredom—feels out of place in this otherwise restrained movie.

My biggest beef with these characters is the amount of time they take away from the main plot. As the movie cuts away from Johnson to further develop the supporting cast, it begins to lose its drive and focus. Their buildup pays off when the three main characters meet in a not too subtle “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” homage, but it is almost not worth the effort getting there.

Ultimately, “Faster” is little more than proof of Dwayne Johnson’s ability to star in an action movie.

It has a polished presentation and moments of real entertainment, but this grim and haphazard tale is far from required theater viewing for action fans.

It’s still worthy of your consideration, but save it for a rental instead.

Michael Brun is an alumnus of UW-River Falls.