31 March 2011

FASTER- Review

The tagline for Faster goes a little like this- "Justice is swift. Vengeance is faster." If anything, that serves to remind me of the episode of The Simpsons where Homer changes his name and duly informs his kids that there are three ways to do things- the right way, the wrong way, and the Max Power way", the latter being the same as the wrong way, "but faster."

The plot itself does little to dispel any expectations you might have going in. Dwayne Johnson plays Driver, a man who gets out of prison for good behaviour and promptly goes on a killing spree. Driver wants revenge on the men who ambushed and murdered his brother's gang a decade earlier, and he'll stop at nothing, not even the best efforts of the cop or the contract killer who have each separately been tasked with stopping him.

Everything about it seems to scream that it's a big, loud and audacious action film along the lines of Drive Angry, from the title, and the casting of Johnson, to the naming of all the characters for their most obvious trait, like Driver, or Cop, or Killer, or Evangelist, or Woman. No, really- a woman in this film is credited as Woman, despite actually having a name in the context of the story.

Those who are given names have names like Baphomet or Detective Cicero- to wit, names that carry heavy symbolic significance. If the naming of the characters seems blunt, you've got a decent idea of the blunt force trauma that Faster is all about. What's surprising is that the impact isn't always the result of a cheap shock or an audacious fight scene, but also from what seems to be an attempt at proper character development.

If Driver isn't carrying a gun, his hands are occupied wringing over the various moral and ethical implications of his rampage. It's a film that's more self-conscious than self-aware, and the internal discussion of Driver's actions falls apart with the general sort of hypocrisy that winds up being a staple of any full-blooded revenge film. Violence is bad, but some bad violence is good if you do the good violence to bad people. And "vengeance is faster" apparently.

You can argue that family fare, like The Tooth Fairy and Race to Witch Mountain, has been holding Dwayne Johnson back from becoming the big action hero that he's clearly capable of being. Coming back around to action in both this and the upcoming Fifth Fast and the Furious Film For Which I Don't Know The Fucking Title, Johnson isn't exactly challenged. There's more time for tearful contemplation that there has been in any of his other films, but it carries no weight when we're so separate from Driver.

The rest of the cast is generally rather good, with Billy Bob Thornton's tortured and drug-addled Cop making a nice counter-point to Carla Gugino as his frustrated colleague, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje showing up at a pivotal point in the film to give Johnson a final obstacle. The major bum note is the casting of Oliver Jackson-Cohen as Killer, a role that Clive Owen might have got if he were shit. The character is precocious, and the acting is not much better.

You can't particularly measure Faster by what it has given the world in terms of moral debate and scrutiny of revenge movie archetypes. However, there's still a hell of a lot of value in a film this blunt that still bothers to think about this kind of thing, even if its ponderings don't quite reach a satisfying conclusion. For a film called Faster, it's remarkably pedestrian stuff, but it has at least one good plot twist to its name and it's more consistently engaging than the usual assaults upon cinema.

Faster is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
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I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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