Director George Tillman Jr. is ‘known’ mostly for 1997’s Soul Food and Biggie Smalls biopic Notorious.
Which makes him an odd choice to revitalise Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s reputation as an action bruiser after a run of sugary fare.
Luckily, both director and star follow the blueprint of all the second-tier ’70s revenge-thrillers that Faster bases itself on, offering up a teeth-gritting, eye-gouging, retro-fitted kill-fest that all but erases memories of Johnson in a tutu in Tooth Fairy.
Like Death Wish and Vanishing Point, two of Faster’s more obvious inspirations, the plot is superbly simple: a muscle-bound, murder-minded bank robber (Johnson) finishes a 10-year stint in the slammer.
Immediately upon release, he hits the road with a list of people to kill, both to avenge his dead brother and to settle various outlaw-type scores.
Johnson’s hotly pursued by a cold-hearted contract killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and a loony veteran cop (Billy Bob Thornton). Bar a couple of fun twists, that pretty much covers it.
Although they’re all indebted to some other film, there are some nice touches here. as in Walter hill’s stripped-down The Driver, no one has names, just occupations: driver, Prison guard, cop, Killer.
Also, like Ryan O’Neal’s titular driver, Johnson utters barely a word for Faster’s entire running time. Thornton’s drug-hoovering cop is pure Bad Lieutenant, while Johnson’s overwrought stoicism is equal parts Oldboy and Kill Bill’s Bride.
Unfortunately, all these cinematic riffs eventually make Faster feel like a pastiche of other, better movies.
Still, it’s a welcome return to mayhem for Johnson, with enough car crashes and head smashes to sate most action junkies.
A raucous revenger with ample car chases and bloody brawls, Faster finds Johnson rediscovering his inner Rock.