When I first saw the trailer for Faster in the theaters, wherein Dwayne Johnson was driving about in a vintage muscle car and shooting off round after round from his shiny and oh-so-manly Ruger Redhawk, I leaned over to my buddy Andrew and quipped, “Yeah, and the sequel will be called “Furiouser.” Indeed, the whole souped-up automobile adrenaline-pumping moving picture genre has become a bit too big for its own britches in the last ten years or so, but I must confess I’d rather watch The Artist Formerly Known As The Rock pushin’ the pedal to the metal in an early ‘70s Chevelle SS than see Vin Diesel zooming ‘round in some modern nitro-charged fiberglass contraption any ol’ day (yes, kids, vehicles were once made with metal).
And, frankly, the fact that this flick bore such a lame moniker probably did not help Faster in terms of performance at the box office — which is a shame, since it’s really not that bad of a movie.
Granted, it’s definitely a “b-movie.” The story here — which has a vengeful, mostly-silent Dwayne Johnson being released from prison, only to systematically hunt down and murder the men responsible for killing his step-brother and leaving him for dead several years before — is about as simple as you can get. But, when you combine cool guns, fast cars (both old and new) and lots of mindless action, you really can’t complain too terribly much about the outcome (well, unless you were one of the people that financed the movie, that is; but that’s what you get for calling a movie Faster, isn‘t it?).
Plus, any modern action/drama movie that has the courage to prominently feature a ‘70s Italian police/crime drama song by Guido & Maurizio De Angelis (the epic “Goodbye, My Friend” from Enzo G. Castellari’s Street Law) during its opening moments gets high praise by a classic Euro exploitation fan such as myself. The soundtrack also boasts the classic druggie fave, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, as well as Iggy Pop’s “I Wanna Be Your Dog” — extra props for those of you who are sick of hearing the latest forgettable hip-hop track featured in their films.
But enough about the movie’s soundtrack. As our near-mystical and seemingly-indestructible anti-hero Johnson rolls around and dispatches one useless member of the human race after another, a junkie cop on the verge of retirement (Billy Bob Thornton) attempts to track the recently-paroled killer down — along with his unwilling and uncomfortable partner, played by Carla Gugino. Meanwhile, a wealthy and psychotic hitman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Britain’s answer to Jake Gyllenhaal) has been assigned the dubious task of extinguishing Johnson’s flame.
Interestingly enough, Faster’s list of “main” female characters is practically limited to the aforementioned Gugino, Maggie Grace (as the hitman’s girlie-friend), Moon Bloodgood (as Thornton’s ex-junkie ex-wife), and a cameo by Dexter’s own Jennifer Carpenter. Other than that, the movie doesn’t bog itself down with any useless “romantic” subplots (there’s no damsel in distress for Johnson to rescue) and instead focuses on it’s strategy of “entertainment via near constant action” ploy. All in all, I’m not complaining. I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece (or even a Vin Diesel pic, for that matter), but I was pleasantly surprised by director George Tillman, Jr.’s ability to “keep it simple, stupid” and entertain his audience in such a delightfully-brainless manner.
And I mean that with all the love in the world, George. I really sincerely do.
Faster really (and unfortunately) lived up to its title in cinemas, zooming in and out of auditoriums at such a velocity that nobody really noticed. A few short weeks later, Sony rushed the fun onto DVD and Blu-ray just so confused moviegoers could finally get a chance to see something that probably would have fared a lot better at the box office had its makers opted to give it a more original and enticing title. The Standard-Definition DVD that I had the pleasure of getting slightly giddy over boasts a surprisingly stellar transfer, which preserves the film’s original 2.40:1 aspect ratio and is anamorphically-enhanced for your widescreen TV-viewing pleasure.
The picture has a rather subdued palette at times, given the film’s gritty subject matter, but the colors and contrast come through admirably — especially for regular ol’ DVD. The disc boasts a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack really goes for the throat when one of the film’s many action scenes are in effect, while delivering an adequate (if somewhat restrained) mix during the more “calmer” moments. Optional English (SDH) and Spanish subtitles are included.
While the option of viewing the film with a director and/or cast commentary is sorely missing here (the Blu-ray release contains a couple of exclusive behind-the-scenes featurettes that aren’t included in the SD-DVD version), Sony’s release of Faster does have a couple of interesting Special Features. The secondary selection of Deleted Scenes (with optional introductions by director Tillman) doesn’t deliver a whole lot in terms of substance; whereas the movie’s Alternate Ending (also with an optional director’s intro) takes the film’s conclusion to a whole new level.
In addition to greatly extending the film’s runtime, the “substitute finale” drastically changes the movie’s outcome — wherein Johnson and killer-for-hire Jackson-Cohen essentially play joust on an open road with their automobiles and firearms! Granted, the ending gets a little out of control — stretching itself out a bit too far — but is nevertheless fun in a vaguely spaghetti western kind of way. But then, the whole movie is fun — even if you hate everybody in it and the bloated, tiresome film genre that it represents.
Go on, kids: give this one a whirl. Chances are you’ll like it more than the last Vin Diesel movie!