F is for… Faster
I came upon Faster recommended on a list of the 100 best action movies. It’s a bit confusing because even though the DVD case itself quotes a review calling it “…the best straight-up action film of the year,” the film isn’t really what I’d call an action movie. It’s not a bad movie by any means, it’s just that there are a lot of other much better movies out there that are true action movies. Faster is more of a revenge movie, which is fine. I guess I was just expecting a little more from the list, and the DVD cover.
…and yes, I’m aware that several movies I’ve reviewed for this site aren’t quite “action” movies, but those are the ones I hadn’t seen before reviewing them, including this one. This site is a work in progress to expand horizons and see and review a lot of kickass movies that might otherwise not be seen nor reviewed.
All of that being said, Faster, directed by George Tillman, Jr, is an engaging if slightly confused film starring Dwayne Johnson as Driver, a man sent to prison for being the getaway driver during a bank heist. The second he gets out of prison, he literally runs back into town and starts killing people. Through the use of flashbacks, it’s explained that after the successful bank heist, the group of robbers is slaughtered by a second group that steals the stolen money. The initial thieves, including Driver’s brother Gary (Matt Gerald), are all killed, and Driver should have been dead but the bullet shot into his head merely traveled along his skull, not through it. Driver is hunting down everyone in the group that slaughtered his friends and brother.
Investigating the case is Cop, played by Billy Bob Thornton. The case is originally assigned to a tough as nails detective named Cicero (Carla Gugino), but she lets him sort of tag along if he makes himself useful. Cop investigates Driver’s kills with the help of a video taken of the murders of the robbers, while also shooting heroin and dealing with his bossy ex Marina (Moon Bloodgood) and unathletic and lonely son.
Meanwhile there’s also Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a handsome renaissance man who is hired to assassinate Driver. He seems to be able to track Driver fairly easily, all the while dealing with his own personal demons in the form of marriage.
After Driver kills the first two people involved in the executions, he attacks but doesn’t kill the third one, only puts him into critical condition. When he realizes this he immediately goes to the hospital where the victim is being held and shoots him in the operating room. Cop, who had predicted Driver would come to the hospital, engages Driver in a gunfight, but Driver doesn’t kill him because he doesn’t have a reason to. As Driver leaves the hospital, Killer catches up with him and they also have a brief shootout, and Driver also lets him live.
The big showdown comes at the scene of an evangelical revival meeting, where Driver tracked the last person involved in killing his brother. Despite the man’s involvement, Driver lets him live, possibly because he’s changed his ways and works to help people. Killer finds Driver sitting by himself, and realizes that Driver thinks he’s done getting his revenge. He then points out that there has to be one more person involved–whomever hired him and knew that Driver was hunting everyone involved in the deaths. Enter Cop, who also knew where Driver would be heading next. He then shoots Driver, and it’s revealed that Cop was the other person involved in the murders and had in fact been the one to shoot Driver in the back of the head, and that he had hired Killer, thinking that Driver would eventually be after him. When Cop realized at the hospital that Driver had no idea who he was, he tried to call off Killer, but Killer wanted to complete his job.
Meanwhile, Cicero had put the pieces together–Driver’s victims were all members of Cop’s CRASH unit, comprised of prison snitches. Marina had been Gary’’s girlfriend, so she knew of the bank heist, and told the others about it. Cicero isn’t able to get to the revival tent before Driver is able to kill Cop and Killer escapes. She doesn’t let anyone know what she figured out, so that Cop’s family can receive his benefits.
Driver, mission complete, drives off into the sunset, while Killer returns to his wife.
It’s a simple but fairly well-done story, if a bit heavily focused on developing the characters of Cop and Killer at the expense of properly developing Driver, the guy the audience is supposed to be rooting for despite his actions. Yes, there’s the scene where we learn Driver left a pregnant girlfriend behind when he went to prison, and the scene with his mother where we learn of his difficult childhood, but these moments don’t really add much to the plot, they just sort of slow things down. I suppose I wanted to know more about who Driver is now, rather than who he used to be. On the other hand, Killer was very intriguing, what with his adrenaline rush issues. Cop was the most blah character to me, but that could be due to his introductory scene consisting of him scoring heroin, and I have no tolerance for drug use, which causes me to not like characters who do drugs.
Anyway, let’s move on to the criteria!
A is for… Accents
Faster is a fairly accent-light movie, especially considering the last few I’ve reviewed. The only character with a noticeable accent is Killer, who is British.
B is for… Bad Guys
This is one of those films where the protagonist is just as bad a person as the antagonist, but the viewer knows he has to root for him. Driver is initially seen in prison, and the very first thing he does after getting out is shoot someone, and the viewer doesn’t know who the victim is or why Driver shoots him. Of course everything is eventually explained, but it’s still a little hard to identify with Driver. He’s very matter-of-fact and doesn’t really have much dialogue to soften his actions. I suppose that’s where those scenes with his ex-girlfriend and mother come into play, but I didn’t really know enough about him to find the scenes helpful and not hammy.
Killer is a bad guy, but he’s not exactly a true antagonist because Driver, while he does interact with him, isn’t trying to get anything from him. Driver simply seems to know Killer is trying to kill him, but doesn’t really seem to care why. Killer is simply doing a job that it is ultimately revealed that he does for fun–he only charges a dollar for his kills, and he has the dollars framed and mounted on his wall. Killer was already a successful software pioneer before “beating yoga” and climbing mountains; he is always looking for the next challenge when he becomes bored. He’s sort of reined in by his girlfriend-then-wife Lily (Maggie Grace), who wants him to quit being a killer.
Cop shouldn’t be a bad guy, considering he’s a cop, but he’s clearly a corrupt cop from the get-go, and ultimately is revealed to be the connection between Driver and Killer. He’d been the one to originally shoot Driver when his friends and brother were killed, and he tried to kill him again only to be foiled by the metal plate put in Driver’s skull after the first bullet. As much as he’s a professional screw-up, Cop does seem to be trying to do right by his son, if not by Marina, a recovering addict to whom he provides more drugs.
C is for… Chases
During the bank heist, the cops chase the robbers in a scene designed to show off Driver’s driving skills, though he doesn’t really use them in the rest of the film except when Killer is chasing him after they both leave the hospital.
D is for… Damsels
Lily is Killer’s girlfriend then wife in the matter of the five days during which the movie takes place. She wants Killer to stop working, even though he points out that she used to be attracted to his work. She is beautiful and doesn’t seem to have a job herself, though considering how rich he is, she doesn’t need to work. She seems to be similarly interested and skilled in fast cars and guns, and is heartbroken that he didn’t quit when he said he did.
Cicero is a tough and competent cop who seems to be the only one who puts together all the pieces and reach the conclusion that Cop is also involved in the murders of Driver’s friends and brother. She chooses to keep quiet and let his family inherit his benefits after his death.
Marina is a former drug addict and snitch, though she uses drugs during the film after Cop gives them to her. She wants Cop to be a better father, and seems to entertain the idea of getting back together with him. She had been Driver’s brother’s girlfriend during the initial bank heist, and it was through her that everyone else learned of the score and decided to take it and kill everyone.
E is for… Explosions
There isn’t a real explosion in the film, but during the shootout in the hospital basement, bullets hit an electrical box that then sparks.
F is for… Flashbacks
Flashbacks are used extensively to depict past events from Driver’s point of view, including the bank heist and the death of his brother and friends. Considering the theme of the film and the simplicity of the narrative, the flashbacks are an effective method of telling the story without having Driver talk to himself, considering he’s alone most of the time.
G is for… Guns
Check out the full listing at the IMFDB.
There’s a revolver waiting for Driver in the provided car when he gets out of prison.
Killer, not surprisingly, has an armory in his garage.
The informant crew uses a shotgun on the robbers.
There’s the shootout at the apartment building between Driver and Killer, and then the shootout at the hospital between Driver and Cop.
For some reason Driver chooses his gun over a different weapon every time except in the strip club, where he uses a knife.
H is for… Helicopters
Sadly, there are no helicopters in Faster.
I is for… Improvisation
Considering Driver leaves prison in the first scene and doesn’t seem to have any resources except his car and his gun, he doesn’t seem to have to improvise ever. No one does, really–everyone has actual weapons.
J is for… Jumping Through Solid Objects
Sadly, no panes of glass or weak walls have a person thrown through them.
K is for… Kill Count
Driver’s first victim is the Telemarketer, whom he shoots in the head.
He then stalks the Cameraman at his apartment, and shoots him in the head.
For some reason he doesn’t shoot the guy who actually slit his brother’s throat, preferring to stab him repeatedly. It is unclear why he doesn’t either use his gun or slit his throat, unless he doesn’t actually have his gun because he had to pass the bouncer to get into the club (and then why not wait until his victim is outside?). Regardless, it would have been poetic for him to slit his throat rather than just stab him. When it’s revealed he’s alive, Driver does indeed shoot him at the hospital, multiple times.
He knows better than to kill Cop at the hospital.
He doesn’t shoot Killer when he has the chance, merely shoots out his tire so he can’t follow him.
He doesn’t kill the preacher, though he does fire a shot next to him.
He ultimately shoots Cop after learning of his involvement with everything.
L is for… Limitations
Driver is alone, using his acquired intel to complete his mission by himself. Other than that, though, he’s never really shown to be struggling, just very focused on what he’s doing.
M is for… Motivation
Driver’s motivation is clearly revenge or vengeance for his brother’s murder.
Cop is expecting Driver to eventually target him, and he wants to cover his tracks and take him out.
Killer wants the rush, and the conquest.
N is for… Negotiation
None of the three main characters really talk to each other, so there isn’t any negotiation between them.
R.G. (Mike Epps) tries to negotiate for more money for his intel, but Driver wants nothing to do with it, and ultimately gets the intel and his money back simply by being a badass.
O is for… One Liners
Killer’s therapist: Are you off your meds?
Killer, giddily: Yes.
Cop: We’ve got a telemarketer and a sex offender. What’s next, a lawyer?
The bouncer, indicating Driver’s arms: You got any weapons on you besides these two guns right here?
Driver, to the preacher: God can’t save you from me.
Driver, to Killer: You’ve got issues.
Cop: I created my own Hell.
Driver: And I’m the demon who crawled up out of it.
P is for… Profession
Driver is… the getaway driver for one of his brother’s bank heists. He’s depicted as being a decent sort of businessman, because he made a lot of money running a contraband ring in prison. The warden describes him as never asking for trouble, but also never turning it down. His mother says that he was never a criminal until he was helping Gary.
It’s unclear why he served ten years in prison for being the getaway driver, especially if he didn’t have a previous record.
It’s also unclear what sort of career he can have after the film if it isn’t murdering or driving, because those are the only two skills he’s shown using. Perhaps salesman or businessman, but it would have to be for something illegal, considering he’s a fugitive.
Q is for… Quagmire
In the revival tent, Killer has his gun trained on Driver. Then Cop comes in, and actually shoots him. Driver actually likely would have died if he didn’t have the metal plate from the first shot to the head.
I believe this is the first film reviewed for this site where the main character actually should be dead, he was in such a quagmire.
R is for… Reality, or the Suspension of Disbelief
It’s a little hard to believe that no one connected the pieces together before, but perhaps there truly wasn’t enough evidence to piece together Cop and his ring of informants.
It’s also really hard to believe that Driver jogged all the way from the prison to the junkyard in the desert heat, even if it was only a few miles. Maybe his determination saw him through.
S is for… Sidekicks
R.G. is the one who left the car, weapon, and first victim’s information for Driver for when he got out of prison. He also provides the complete list of informants that Driver needs to kill.
T is for… Technology
There are an awful lot of surveillance cameras in the telemarketing office.
The Cameraman making his own snuff film is the only information the police seem to have on Driver’s bank heist group execution.
U is for… Unexpected Romance
No unexpected romance in Faster. Unexpected former romantic entanglement yes, but no romance for Driver moving forward.
V is for… Vehicles as Weapons
At one point during the chase from the hospital, Driver maneuvers his car in front of a tractor trailer to the point that the tractor trailer has to merge to the right, cutting off Killer and forcing him to stop to avoid a collision.
W is for… Winning
Driver seems to have completed his mission, until Killer explains that there is one more member of the gang that executed Driver’s friends and brother. Before Driver really has time to process that, Cop shows up and shoots Driver. He and Killer then talk, and he tries to pay Killer for completing the job. Killer turns it down, then goes home to Lily. Cop continues walking, only to be shot by Driver, who’d been saved by the plate in his head.
Killer quits to be with his wife, Driver drives off into the sunset, and thanks to Cicero, Cop’s family gets its inheritance.
X is for… X-Rays, or Maybe You Should See a Doctor
A quite literal example here, considering Driver was shot in the head and survived, and now has a metal plate in his head. He should probably get that thing checked out considering he was shot again. And surely he must have a terrible headache, no matter how diesel that thing is.
Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem
This theme is the entire focus of the movie–Cop and his gang killed Driver’s friends and brother, and tried to kill him. Upon leaving prison, Driver made getting his revenge on all of them his number one priority. Had Cop been successful the first time, there would be no movie. Had there not been a snuff film, perhaps the police would never have put the pieces together. If Driver’s brother hadn’t been daring Marina, Cop wouldn’t have learned of the heist in the first place.
Z is for… Zone, In The
Driver is so single-minded that he’s pretty much always in the Zone, focusing on his current or next kill.
Faster has a lot going for it, including a good cast and a simple story that allows it to focus on other things, like how to tell that story. That becomes sort of its problem, too, the fact that the story is so simple it needs a little padding to make it long enough. One reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes wishes Faster were either smarter or dumber, and upon watching the film the analysis makes a lot more sense. The plot could be less simplistic, or the action could be turned up to eleven, as a way to apply the sentiment.
It’s extremely nitpicky, but I hated the yellow tone to the whole movie, making it look like it was perpetually sunset. It certainly didn’t do Bakersfield any favors.
Cop mentions several times that he’s only a couple weeks away from retirement. It was a giant smoking gun with neon lights screaming that he wasn’t going to survive the movie.
The yoga fan service…. Yowza! Oliver Jackson-Cohen can do more almost-naked yoga whenever he desires, in my book.
This was the second movie in a row I’ve reviewed that used the theme from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
There were way too many storylines, and attempts to add character development. Okay, Killer clearly had mobility issues as a child, but obviously worked through them. Are we to assume it was those health issues that led him to become the results oriented, conquer-focused man he became? I guess maybe, but it was unnecessary. As for Cop, hey, the drug addict cop has family issues and isn’t around for his kid? I’m pretty sure that’s part of the character for EVERY COP MOVIE EVER. And the scenes with Driver’s ex and mother, so boring and unnecessary, easily replaced by quick flashbacks.
I hate to say it, but a lot of the scenes with the women made the film drag. Driver’s ex, with the tale of woe of the abortion and having to break up with Driver, and she has a new family and new life… It’s been ten years, it’s expected and boring–there’s got to be another way to make Driver seem more human. And again with the mother, where we have Driver’s childhood with his abusive father and favoritism toward the son that actually belonged to the father, and how he was actually a good boy and never did anything wrong until his brother needed his help… Not interesting enough to warrant the whole scene, when a series of short flashbacks could have been used, especially considering that the film was already using flashbacks. Then Killer with Lily, and wanting to settle down, and they get married and go to their cabin on the lake and she wants him to quit… It’s like the coinciding story to the workaholic cop, the woman who wants him to quit for her. Speaking of which, Marina didn’t really serve a point except to be the connection between Cop and the brother. And of course to yell at Cop for being a terrible father. Normally I’m on the side of the policeman in these scenarios, because the wives should understand the work their husbands have to do, but considering he’s a dirty, drug using cop, I couldn’t really care less.
The only woman whose character deserved to be developed, Cicero, didn’t get developed, I suppose because she didn’t have a connection to the three main men.
How many lines does Driver actually have? He’s pretty much alone and walking, driving, or shooting the entire film.
There are a lot of overhead shots of the car spinning, I guess to look cool and illustrate how good of a driver Driver is.
During the scenes in the tent, especially during the revival, all I could think about what how hot it must have been inside when they were filming. That location for the revival was beautiful, though, with the lake.
So, Faster had a lot of good things, and a lot of negative things, but is certainly enjoyable enough to watch as a revenge story, if not an action movie.