Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Man on Film: Faster

Any Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson fan had to have been salivating when word that he was doing an R-rated revenge flick got out.  Well, Faster is that flick.  And it isn't.  While graphically violent, it falls short of what I think we all wanted from the film.

Now, I think when most of us think of what we would want from an R-rated Dwayne Johnson revenge flick, we want a shitload of righteous kills*.  For the most part, we get this.  Unfortunately, since it's The Rock that we're talking about, there is a certain way that I think we want these kills realized.  We want these bad guys, these henchmen, these minions, and especially these masterminds tossed around like rag dolls.  It's The Fucking Rock, after all.

Dwayne Johnson pursues doucher
What we get is a fearless dude fresh out of the joint who is on a mission to avenge his brother's death and his own attempted murder.  With nothing left to live for, he goes after his targets with reckless abandon and little concern for whether or not he is seen knocking these guys off.  This element of a singular purpose with a determination that cares not for such trivial things as getting caught is admittedly badass. 

*But trust me, we don't want Righteous Kill...

Unfortunately, the obvious physicality of Dwayne Johnson is woefully under-utilized.  And maybe if George Tillman, Jr. (the director of Soul Food, Men of Honor, and Notorious) didn't spend the first minute of the movie fetishizing Dwayne Johnson's massively muscular build, showing the audience what a physical specimen he is, then he could have justifiably made the argument that The Rock had been cast for reasons other than his obvious imposing stature, but it would be tough to make that case given the project.

As it is, Faster is a relatively run-of-the-mill revenge flick.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing.  I happen to love this sub-genre.  Death WishPaybackTakenOldboyGet Carter.  The man on a mission to avenge a wrongdoing scenario is clearly fruitful ground.  It is not hard to appeal to our natural urge to exact revenge upon those who have done wrong unto us.  We can rather easily place ourselves in the shoes of the avenger, our loved one(s) perishing in the place of theirs, our righteous anger at the prospect of this violent act.  With as likable a lead as Dwayne Johnson, why wouldn't we want to pretend we were him?

The main issue that one can reasonably take against the film is that Dwayne Johnson just walks in with a hand cannon and shoots guys with a steely determination.  There is virtually no brute force used in the execution of his to-do list.

Well, maybe that's not the main issue, but that's the one that left The Leprechaun, J-Bone, and myself wanting when we left the theater on Saturday.

The main issue is that there is this lame-o British yogi contract killer who is so lame that he is dating (and SPOILER ALERT marries) Maggie Grace.  Yes, the same Maggie Grace who sucked in Lost.  That's right, the same Maggie Grace who did her damnedest to make me wish that the throat-chopping badass Liam Neeson failed in his mission to save his daughter in the surprisingly awesome Taken.  The insertion of this third-party hired to apparently add an element of The Good, The Bad, and The Choady is easily the most irritating part of the film.  The hitman who desperately wants approval of his 'faster' (yes, this is where the title comes from) target is simply sad.

Now, the film isn't necessarily poorly directed.  Just because the director is also the guy who directed Soul Food doesn't mean it doesn't look all right.  I actually kind of like the soundtrack choices, including "Just Dropped In" as Billy Bob Thornton's crooked Cop (yes, his character is just referred to as Cop, just as Dwayne Johnson is Driver, and choady toolbag (his real name is Oliver Jackson-Cohen) character is Killer) is shooting up in an alley, and "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and a track off of High Violet (I think it was "Terrible Love" but now I can't remember) are prominently featured.  The score was also by Clint Mansell, whose work I generally love, but I honestly can't recall the score.  At.  All.
The other issue is the screenplay.  Written by the Gayton brothers (Tony wrote Murder by Numbers and The Salton Sea, and Joe wrote Uncommon Valor and co-wrote Bulletproof), the screenplay is relatively short on too many elements that it needed to be successful.  The Driver says virtually nothing.  The Cop is apparently a junkie, but he is hardly struggling with his addiction.  The Killer is a completely unnecessary character, and his new bride is even more extraneous. 

Ultimately, it is cool that The Rock is blowing motherfuckers away, but Faster has too many things detracting from it to recommend to anyone without them either being a huge Dwayne Johnson fan or desperately looking for a revenge flick that isn't directed by that hack Paul Haggis.  After all, I think we'd all trust the director of Soul Food and Men of Honor to direct a better revenge flick than him. 

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