Ten years behind bars, and he's so antsy. You see the Rock's character - anonymously labeled "Driver" - as he restlessly paces in his prison cell, waiting out his last morning in stir, and you know something festers on his mind. Any musings as to whether he's truly been rehabilitated is put to rest when he erupts out the penitentiary and straight away visits an office and guns down a telemarketer. That's cold-blooded. That's one name off his list (yes, there is a list).
It's good to see the Rock straying from those sappy family friendly Disney flicks. Good to see him return to his roots and bolstering his action hero street creds. FASTER works off the conventions of a B-movie revenge thriller, and good performances from Dwayne Johnson and Billy Bob Thornton elevate this thing. There are moments of pure cool cinema, like that point of view perspective from the other side of the car's speedometer which allows us a peek out at the seething face of the Rock. I don't think I've seen a revenge thriller this lean and raw and entertaining since Mel Gibson's PAYBACK more than a decade ago.
FASTER is told mainly from three perspectives: the Driver, the Killer, and the drug junkie Cop, with the latter two trying to catch up to the Driver as he continues to eliminate those what done him wrong, those what murdered his brother. Just about every character here is one-dimensional, but Johnson manages to lend nuance to his laconic role. Billy Bob Thornton, as he usually does, adds a little somethin' somethin' to his scruffy, 10-days-to-retirement police detective.
One peculiar choice is the film's decision to devote so much camera time and back story to Oliver Jackson-Cohen's elegant contract hit man. He sees in Driver that one challenge he's been looking for, the one guy who may be faster than he is and that gets his competitive juices flowing. But, frankly, ultimately, I didn't think this hit man was all that interesting. He's what passes for shallow glitter. I did get a laugh though that Jackson-Cohen's biggest peeve there at the end seems to be that he's just not getting the professional courtesy he feels he deserves from the Rock. Jackson-Cohen certainly adds an element of quirk, and it doesn't hurt that his personal arc presents the stunning Maggie Grace as eye candy. Grace, Carla Gugino, and Moon Bloodgood somewhat take the edge off the testosterone level, never mind that Gugino herself plays a tough cop detective.
Dwayne Johnson strides across the screen as a simmering, single-minded force of nature. He relentlessly drives the film, ratcheting up the pace of the story, and maybe it's a good thing after all that Jackson-Cohen's posh assassin gets his moments because this allows the viewing audience to breathe a bit. I did feel that the film backed away a bit from completely portraying Driver as the hard-bitten ex-convict out for vengeance come hell or high water. That one drawn out sequence with Driver and the pastor sort of killed the buzz. Dang that Bible-thumping. Still, FASTER satisfies your jonesing for taut, hard-core anti-hero revenge flicks. And, look at that, the Rock's suddenly got his swagger back. At least until he stars in TOOTH FAIRY 2 or something.
The DVD's extras ain't much: an Alternate Ending (which was the original ending) and 5 Deleted Scenes with optional Director's introductions (except for the "Killer Takes A Picture" scene).