I halfway remember the reviews for Faster when it first came out. Dwayne Johnson (Driver) had just spent about a decade making family friendly comedies, and this was his first action movie in a long time. The reviews that I remember (probably all from commercials) all call the film hardcore action that’s all muscles and guns. Sounds like a good enough time.
So, I finally caught up with it (because I am on the cutting edge of movie watching), and I didn’t really enjoy it. I kept thinking of two movies while watching it: John Wick and Smokin’ Aces, the first for the similar plot, and the second for the descent into unearned maudlin emotion towards the end.
What should have been a stripped down revenge flick got instead bogged down in hiding information from the audience in order to preserve a plot twist at the end which wasn’t that unpredictable. Instead of focusing on Driver performing his vengeance, we have to try and figure out what happened to him until almost halfway through the movie, guess who’s actually involved, and juggle a couple of other storylines at the same time.
It’s not stripped down at all. It’s over-encumbered with junk elements and a structure that will never hold up to multiple viewings. Yes, we find out who the head of the gang who attacked Driver was at the end (which was a bit predictable), so that on subsequent viewings, all of the effort to hide tease that twist become tiresome instead of intriguing. We can’t focus on just the action because it honestly doesn’t take up too much time.
And, by the end of the film, when Driver faces the last known face (who has become a preacher and we only met a few minutes before), we’re forced into some kind of emotional ending that the movie wasn’t working towards in any way shape or form. It also undermined Driver, turning him from a steely instrument of justice into someone more human, which actually undermines the movie overall. Is this a revenge fantasy or a drama with revenge elements? The first three quarters of the movie are the former, and the last quarter is the latter. It’s a huge conflict of tones that undermines the movie just as it should be getting good.
I hate comparing movies together, but propping up two files side by side with similar ambitions can be instructive. I don’t love John Wick, but I do enjoy it. It’s exactly what Faster wanted to be, a pure revenge tale. We get just enough information to understand Wick’s motivation and then it’s just an action showcase that uses its shoestring plot to let Wick murder bad people for making him sad. It works because of the simplicity at play. Faster piles characters and plot twists where they don’t belong, turning what should have been a simple but fun throwback into a mess.
Netflix Rating: 2/5
Quality Rating: 1/4