“FASTER”

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I’ve always thought that former pro wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — with his enormous body, bullet-shaped head, and eye-popping tats — was born to star in action flicks… and that, by agreeing to appear in so many PG-rated, kid-oriented movies (“Get Smart”, “Return to Witch Mountain”), he’s been doing himself a disservice.
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Well, a BAD action flick — like his latest offering, “Faster” — won’t help his career, either.
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In this one, Johnson plays a hulking brute who, upon being released from prison after serving ten years for bank robbery, promptly hops into a souped-up car and goes after the baddies who set him up (not to mention sadistically murdered his brother, who was in on the heist with him).  From the moment he strides into the offices of a marketing research firm and pops his first vic in the head, to the final showdown amid the sand and surf of a deserted beach, Johnson is a killing machine every bit as single-minded as Schwarzenegger’s Terminator… only bigger.
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Johnson doesn’t say much; he’s not a bad actor, but he’s almost never required by Joe and Tony Gayton’s lazy, by-the-numbers script to… well… act.  Only occasionally — in a flashback scene with his soon-to-die brother, a heart-to-heart with his mom, a scene with his ex-wife — is he asked to display any sensitivity, any vulnerability, at all.
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A high body count is what director George Tillman Jr. is after, and that is what we get.  Yet — despite all the hyper-intense gunfights, car chases, and mano-a-mano bloodletting, none of it is very exciting.  Loud? Yes.  Stomach-churning? Sometimes.
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But exciting?
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No.
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A junkie cop on the verge of retirement (Billy Bob Thornton) and his tough-talking partner (Carla Gugino) are fine, but underdeveloped.  (The movie’s way of giving Thornton’s character some “depth” is to show him driving his pudgy son to a Little League game.  Don’t blink — you’ll miss it.)  And is the cold-blooded assassin tracking Johnson down as repugnantly brutish as the Rock himself?  No, he’s a pretty-boy with a posh British accent… and an equally gorgeous “gun moll”, to boot.  I liked the two of them (Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s baby-faced hit man, in particular) but did he — did THEY — have to be so damn beautiful?
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As for Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s thug-turned-preacher: as much as I enjoyed his limited screen time (kudos to this talented “Lost” alum for his performance; it was the best in the film, by far), I couldn’t help thinking that I had seen it all before, and — as with Gugino’s spunky lady detective — probably in a much better movie.
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Say… maybe the Rock should stick to kiddie fare, after all.  “Tooth Fairy II”, anyone?
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FILM REVIEW by Stuart R. Brynien