Silent but Deadly: Dwayne Johnson Tears Through a Somber Killing Spree in 'Faster'
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson became a World Wrestling Entertainment legend not because of his extraordinary physique or his technical proficiency. He made himself memorable at the mic, tearing his opponents down to size with colorful trash talk and a challenging glare, punctuated by his cocked “people’s eyebrow.”
In Faster, the ludicrous new thriller from Notorious director George Tillman Jr, Johnson’s verbal prowess isn’t the only resource wasted – Billy Bob Thornton, Carla Gugino and common sense are collateral victims of brothers Tony and Joe Gayton’s crude story – but its absence may be the movie’s most vexing miscalculation.
Johnson, as WWE fans quickly learned, has charisma to spare. In person, he is sharp-witted, funny and effortlessly engaging. Those qualities translate easily to the screen, but Faster never gives him a chance. Here, he is the strong, silent type – too silent, it turns out. His job is to look mean, shoot first and ask questions never. In the unlikely event he was paid by the word, the producers should have enough cash left over to enjoy a bountiful holiday season.
Nobody in the violent world of Faster is allowed to crack a smile, and if they’re not having any fun, imagine how we feel. Johnson plays Driver – his occupation, not his name – an ex-con sworn to avenge the murder of his brother. Thornton plays Cop, the heroin-addicted detective assigned to stop Driver before he deposits a bullet in the skull of every man who has wronged him.
There’s a subplot involving an Internet startup mogul turned laughably insecure hit man (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), who hunts Driver first for pay and later to preserve his professional integrity. There I also a halfhearted attempt to humanize Johnson’s anti-hero with a last-second spiritual turn. Why? To lend the story the illusion of depth, I guess, but Faster, a slapdash pastiche of poorly shot shootouts and underworld seediness, creates a universe even God would have trouble saving.
Most intriguing among the participants is Thornton, not simply because he’s given the most scenery to chew, but also because Cop’s penchant for self-destruction seems perilously at odds with his paternal instincts and underlying moral code. The latter vanishes in a flash – I won’t tell you how, and I still don’t know why – but when he’s on screen, it’s easy to imagine him in a better movie.