Monday 23 August 2021

Movie Review: Faster (2010)

A superlative revenge thriller, Faster flamboyantly - and surprisingly - enjoys multi-character depth and twisty narrative surprises.

Released after serving ten years in a California prison, Jimmy Cullen (Dwayne Johnson) is intent on avenging the death of his older brother Gary. The siblings were double-crossed after a heist, Gary was killed and Jimmy, the getaway driver, miraculously survived a bullet to the head. Now he secures a powerful Chevelle and targets the men responsible, working his way through a list.

Within hours Jimmy ruthlessly dispatches his first two targets, earning the attention of Los Angeles police detective Cicero (Carla Gugino). She is dismayed when detective Slade Humphries (Billy Bob Thornton), a burned-out addict nearing retirement, is teamed with her. Meanwhile, handsome and wealthy assassin-for-hire (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) receives an assignment to kill Jimmy. The assassin is deeply in love with his girlfriend Lily (Maggie Grace) and pondering whether it's time to retire.

As he fights his inner demons, Jimmy encounters difficulties terminating his next two targets. Meanwhile, Cicero, Slade and the assassin close in, each harbouring a different agenda.

Superficially carrying all the hallmarks of a stock man-on-a-revenge-mission thriller, Faster aims much higher. Director George Tillman Jr. has a clever and character-rich script to work with courtesy of Tony and Joe Gayton. And while Dwayne Johnson in the central role is rock-faced and does not even try to convey charisma, he is adequate when it's time to seek self-doubt.

The pleasant surprises start with three men defined in rich detail. Faster creates space for wheelman Jimmy Cullen, damaged detective Humphries, and the nameless professional assassin to share the spotlight. While Jimmy works his way through his kill-list like a wrecking ball, Humphries is a messy counterpoint as an antagonist and manipulator, complete with a complicated home life and a shadowy past. Meanwhile the suave hired killer schedules personal therapy sessions between assassinations and is becoming convinced Lily is his forever soulmate. He is more than wealthy enough to retire, but out of professional pride needs to fulfil his final contract.

With a foundation of three eloquently drawn characters, the second half dares to humanize further, and soars with audacious backstories for two of Jimmy's intended victims. In a canny feint, the confrontation between Jimmy and the bouncer Nixon (Lester Speight) is advertised as a bone-crunching showdown but suddenly veers into inter-generational torment. Then the preacher Jarod (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) moves from radio voice to in-person presence, and introduces a painfully weighty moral dilemma for Jimmy to grapple with.

All the lines between good and bad and right and wrong are deliciously blurred, giving birth to soul-breaking decisions. Jimmy's troubled upbringing and family background come into focus, further enriching his quest.

The bursts of action are frequent and forcefully short, all delivered with calm coherence. Faster knows when and how to propel machinery, but is much more interested in the flawed drivers.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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