Walking out of the theater after a screening of Faster, I was dumbstruck by the title. There is no race against the clock in Faster, and the main character Driver (Dwayne Johnson yet again trying to lose The Rock moniker) isn't in a particular hurry to enact his revenge. Yeah, so the title kinda blows, and it doesn't really make any sense. Surprisingly, the movie doesn't make too much sense, yet it does not blow. Considering it is a hodge podge of typical revenge film standards, Faster is a quirky modern Western that isn't terribly memorable, but it is surprisingly enjoyable. Who would have thought?
Part of this is due to Johnson. After years of crappy films with terrible acting, he seems to have finally kicked his wrestling history aside for a passable role. As the “Driver,” an unnamed getaway driver who spent ten years in prison after being ratted out by a competing group of criminals, he's capably angry and silent. And for good reason, see how his brother died in the sabotage. Once Driver is out of prison, it's a quick quest for revenge. With the heroin addicted Cop (Billy Bob Thorton) and his capable partner Agent Cicero (Carla Gugino) on his tail, in addition to a slightly nutty assassin called Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), there is a lot going on for what starts out as a fairly simple revenge flick.
Thankfully, the film juggles everything pretty damn well. While it does randomly bring in new bits of information (Driver hates his father! His former girlfriend aborted their baby! Cop is married to who?! Etc etc.), everything is pushed aside for the quick fights and action sequences. Driver has five men to kill in the Bakersfield, CA area, and with this primary thread tying everything together, there are lots of shots of the ugly central valley city and the underlying crime drama within. Thorton is fantastic as the grimy and disgusting Cop, a perfect foil for Driver. Both men are far from good people, and the silent and powerful Driver against the weaselly Cop is a strong component of the film.
Unfortunately, the Killer's sub-plot is a little unnecessary. He's a fantastically rich and famous assassin, known for founding and then selling a multi-million dollar corporation he founded in his youth. Apparently stricken with polio as a child, he has scars up and down his leg indicating a miracle surgery, and in addition to killing people, he's also in a relationship with the fabulously beautiful Lily (Maggie Grace). He's actually a fairly interesting character, very cool, neurotic and physically beautiful (to quote the film), but he doesn't actually need to be in the film. Sure, he's the catalyst for a couple of shootouts and a conversation or two as he questions himself, but ultimately he's not necessary. I would much much rather see him star in his own film than interrupt the comings and goings of Cop and Driver.
And technically, there really isn't any reason to like the characters. They are all bad people. They all have hang ups that resulted from their life choices, yet, oddly, you can't help but root for them a little bit. Driver will do anything to exact revenge, Cop just wants to finish this last case before he retires with his wife and kid, and Killer just needs to complete this last job before returning to his special lady. Of course, everything is properly convoluted to keep things interesting, but all the characters are really bad men.
It is a good thing then that Faster ignores these problems by making the film as much about revenge as possible. Much like Kill Bill or The Count of Monte Cristo, Faster's characters are not necessarily doing the right thing, but the expression of revenge is instantly satisfying for many. Faster isn't a great film, but it certainly is a fun one, perfect to watch if you just want to blow off some steam. Sometimes during the holiday season, that's all you need.