Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Faster - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray/DVD Release Date: March 1, 2011

What happened to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson? For almost half a decade he has done nothing but play in movies geared towards kids, families and teenage girls at best. He was posed to be the next action star, he had the acting chops, the physique and the right attitude for the part but for some unknown reason he decided to be the dam Tooth Fairy! So, looking for a trashy action flick to pass the time with I came across this 2010 action movie starring the man who would be wuss-ified. In the interest of discovering whether or not the man can still fire a gun that isn't loaded with water I decided to give it a shot and see what would happen.

Review Vital Stats:
Format: Blu-ray
Player: LG Model 370 
Monitor: Samsung 40' LCD Series 5
Picture Quality: 1080p
Sound Quality: True HD - English

Loves: Revenge movies
Likes: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Billy Bob Thorton
Neutral: Unresolved or unnecessary sub plots
Hates: Action movies with very little action
Kids: Are thankfully absent from this

Here we are, almost 6 years since the last time Dwayne Johnson has picked up a weapon with the intent on firing it. For some actors that leave behind a genre that gave them their popularity in the first place and attempt to return to it that long after is a death sentence unless they make that come back with a known property that they have been attached to previously. Ironically enough his next film Fast Five has him co-starring with Vin Diesel, another actor that went the way of the family friendly film and discovered that he best stick with what works. However he is using his past successes with known franchises such as the xXx and The Fast & The Furious series of movies to get him back in good favor with the fans he left behind. Dwayne Johnson chose a different route, he bulked back up and picked a fairly straight forward action flick to trumpet his return to the world of badassery with his latest film Faster and surprisingly I think it worked out much better than anyone expected.

Driver (Dwayne Johnson) is eagerly awaiting his release from jail after serving a 10 year prison sentence for a botched bank robbery. And when I say eagerly I mean it, when we first meet him he is being set free and as soon as he is out the gate he wastes no time and starts to run down the nearest road that will lead him out of the barren desert prison as quickly as possible. He finds a car that had been stowed away for him by a unknown (to us) benefactor along with a hand gun and some files with information on a few individuals. He speeds out of there and within no time at all finds himself at a simple looking office building where he promptly walks in ignoring anyone that speaks to him until he comes across one of the people we saw in those files he had. Without hesitation he pulls out the gun and puts a bullet in the man's head and then proceeds to leave the premises just as quickly as he entered it.


Now, that all happens within the first 5 to 10 minutes of the film. It isn't until a while later we discover that the man he shot and the subsequent people he begins to hunt down are the people responsible for his brother's death 10 years ago. That first murder he commits let's us know his state of mind which is that he has no interest in being discreet about his vengeful acts as he knowingly looks square into the security camera as though he wants the people he is hunting to know he is coming for them. However, being so reckless has also put the police on his tail with two detectives, one simply called Cop (Billy Bob Thornton) and his reluctant partner Cicero (Carla Gugino). They aren't the only ones looking for him though as a mysterious party has also hired a ruthless, skilled and very confident assassin called Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) to track Driver down and end his search for revenge as quickly as it started.

Faster is far from high art but it is one of those films that isn't really trying to be anything more than your simple throwback to those old 70's and 80's revenge flicks. Earlier this year we had another film that attempted to cover the same ground as Faster does with the Nicolas Cage action film Drive Angry and while that film was mostly unsuccessful at such a simple concept as a man out to get revenge this one pulls it off without a hitch. There is a certain type of excitement a person gets when they witness a person that for all intents and purposes should not be walking knocking off the people that thought they got away with whatever atrocity they committed one by one. Driver is just such a character as he says himself that he cannot die, he is cursed that way.


He's not lying either, we learn that the people that killed his brother also put a bullet in the back of his head but after being pronounced dead he miraculously awakens moments later. I couldn't help but feel some deja vu with the parallels between this story and Quentin Tarantino's two part film series Kill Bill. Both the protagonists, who both have obscure and plain names, were shot in the head, left for dead by a group of people that wronged them and by some miracle they are brought back seemingly for the singular purpose to find the people responsible and put things right. While Kill Bill dealt more with the visceral thrills of the increasingly different and difficult encounters that the Bride had, Faster takes a different route and instead of making each new encounter more intense than the last we get to see the toll all this killing is having on Driver.

That's not to say he goes soft or anything, but he has been driven to violence because of the actions of others and thus is not necessarily the blood thirsty type. Although he didn't hesitate to kill the first person he came across we start to see he is becoming more and more susceptible to the effects of taking lives. This bit of humanity that is instilled in his character was a welcome addition to the usual revenge formula. Don't get me wrong though, I love it when a character just plows through anyone and everyone to reach their goal (see Man on Fire) but I also liked that the character of Driver was more than a two dimensional thrill seeker. His reactions to his actions helped give the film some extra weight that I wasn't expecting but appreciated.


Driver wasn't the only one that got that level of attention though, both Cop and Killer also have much more going on beneath their exterior personalities. Cop is introduced to us while he is scoring some heroin from his local dealer. This addiction he has has apparently cost him his marriage and has effected his career as a police detective enough that he is retiring soon from the force. Of course he can't retire until he finishes this one last case which for some reason becomes a personal matter for him as he begins following leads without his partner. The character of Killer though is probably the one person in the film that while feeling almost like an afterthought is also one of the more interesting additions to the revenge film formula.

He is shown to us as a very rich and fit man that not only has it all and become bored of it all but has also gotten rid of it all. His whatever-illion dollar business was sold and now after conquering such amazing feats as climbing Mount Everest, beating yoga and getting married to possibly one of the greatest women ever (she not only knows he his a hit man but helps him prep for his jobs) his only other vice that brings him pleasure anymore is the occasional assassination job that comes his way for which he only charges one dollar to his employer. Even that has began to bore him though until he is hired to take down Driver, a man he sees as not very graceful but is amazed at how fearless he is. After his first attempt to take down Driver fails he is invigorated once again as he has finally met a mark that is worthy of his numerous talents.

Cop and his partner look over some evidence.

The fact that all three characters have these lives outside the actual main storyline of revenge and how they constantly intersect with one another was done very well. It got to the point where you started to care about all of them, hell even some of the people that Driver hunts down have some redeeming values to them that makes you feel bad that they have to go. I thought after seeing first hand what they did to Driver and his brother that I would revel in each kill but just like Driver I started to become conflicted on what I wanted to see and what I wanted to actually happen. I was not expecting this level of depth from a movie that looked like a trashy action picture and I don't know, maybe my low expectations helped with my liking of it but I found myself getting wrapped up in all the characters and what their ultimate fates would end up being by the time Driver finished his killing spree.

Alas not everything is picture perfect here unfortunately. It's kind of funny in a way though because the film got so many other things right that I wasn't expecting and the one thing I was expecting to see a lot of, action, it didn't have. There are of course the deaths of the people he is hunting to count on but those are, with one exception, over very quickly. You would expect to see Driver and Killer have a few standoffs over the course of the film but strangely they only ever meet up twice, once at the beginning and once at the very end. The story arc for Killer with him getting married actually takes up the bulk of his screen time. We see him trying to live a normal life with his new wife instead of seeing him go toe to toe with Driver. Like I said though, those character moments are all well done but anyone seeking this film out for some hardcore action (rightfully so mind you) will most likely come away disappointed by the scarce action sequences. Although there are some pretty nifty car stunts they pull off on numerous occasions.

Driver does more than drive sometimes.

There were some story beats that just dragged as well with the one major standout being the visit Driver pays to his brother's widow, played by Jennifer Carpenter whom I personally cannot stand as an actor by the way. That scene does not accomplish one thing, sure we learn that his brother was married and had a kid but none of that is pertinent to the action at hand and felt like a very unnecessary pit stop. The same goes for a visit to Driver's mother, while we get some needed back story from the meeting it to felt like extra padding. I was able to connect to Driver's quest just fine without either of those moments. The only other issue I had with the film was a seemingly unresolved sub plot involving a relative of one of the people Driver murders which at first didn't feel like it deserved to be explored but the fact that the character kept popping back up led me to believe they were going to come into play later on in the film. Perhaps I was just reading too much into it, but it just felt like they either spent too much time on something that ultimately didn't matter or too little time on something that did.

So there you have it, Faster is a surprisingly strong character piece that unfortunately sacrifices a lot of expected action bits in the process. Your mileage will vary with it depending on how open minded you are when approaching a film with one expectation which it doesn't really deliver on while giving you something else just as fulfilling if a little out of left field for it's genre. Dwayne Johnson though, in my eyes anyway, has returned to the action film arena in great form. Any fan of his previous action movies will likely find a lot to like here. I would suggest that if you are looking for a fun diversion to tide you over one night then you might think about checking out Faster.


Killer finds some time for romance.

What's on the disc?

Well what do you know, not only did the movie itself surprise me but the extra features did as well. While they aren't exactly what I would consider to be extensive they do at least cover many different aspects of the film's production. By far the two best features to be found here are the alternate ending which runs a whopping 13 minutes and really does effect how the film ends. The other is the animatics feature which I usually find to be rather blah but the amount of detail and work that went into these made them almost as exciting to sit through as the finished film itself. Overall this is a good collection of extras that compliment the film well.

Alternate Ending (12:42 min) HD - (Note that all deleted scenes have an optional introduction by the director) There is probably only 8 minutes here that is different than the current ending but those minutes change the outcome to the entire film. Without giving too much away here you end up having a completely different fate for one of the main three characters and a pretty good action scene that would have been a great way to end the film. I can understand why they ditched it though and find the current ending to be a better alternative to this in the end.

Deleted Scenes (10:50 min) HD - A collection of 5 deleted scenes that were cut for many different reasons. Some were cut because the new ending made them obsolete while others were cut for time. It would have been nice to have kept a couple of them in there but oh well.

Criminals and Cops: The Cast of Faster  (12:12 min) HD - This is your basic cast interviews with everyone spewing out accolades to all their fellow crew members. The one thing I did like though was hearing Dwayne Johnson try to explain why he had been away from the action genre for so long...give it up Dwayne, we know it was all about the money man.

Weapons and Wheels: The Guns, Cars and Stunts of Faster (11:54 min) HD - Given that the weapons for each of the characters were distinct and their vehicles were part of their overall personalities this ended up being a more interesting behind the scenes feature than I was expecting. Good stuff.

Animatics (12:22 min) HD - Storyboards for the bank heist, the old man kill, the hospital encounter and what they call the joust scene. Watching these was almost like watching a motion comic book in some instances and I was constantly surprised at how much effort was put into them with the sound effects and voice work. I was completely caught off guard with the quality of this feature.


But Driver still drives most of the time.

Final Verdict:

I can't say that I am sorry I missed Faster during it's theatrical run because I fell as though I probably wouldn't have liked it as much. For some reason it works surprisingly well as a late Friday or Saturday night rental if you don't feel like going out. While there are very few actual action scenes, what we get are still pretty darn cool and it is just really refreshing to see The Rock kicking ass again. Both the audio and video for the Blu-ray were pitch perfect with a set of extras that actually matched the quality of the film. This one is a simple one to recommend as a rental, so check it out if you feel the need to see The Rock make some bad people bleed.

Movie   -  B
Video   -  A
Audio   -  A
Extras  -  B




L3ader (Kami Talebi) said...

Epic storyboard if you just read the captions of the images! hahaha

Shaun said...

I felt the acting was the strongest part of the movie, it didn’t have to deep of a story, and I knew pretty early that cop was involved, and they dragged it out too long with the “I hope they haven’t figured it out yet”. The action scenes were good as well, I was surprised by the movie myself after listening to the critics bash it when it was theaters I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see it, but when I saw it release on I figured I would give it a chance, now I’m a little bummed that I didn’t watch it in the theater. Working at DISH Network, I spend a lot of time surfing the net at work to see what new deals we have, and also seeing how I am a blockbuster member, this one popped out at me, DISH subscribers can now get 3 months of Blockbuster by mail for free, check it out at

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