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Faster DVD Review

Faster (2010) movie poster Faster

Theatrical Release: November 24, 2010 / Running Time: 98 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: George Tillman, Jr. / Writers: Tony Gayton, Joe Gayton / Songs List

Cast: Dwayne Johnson (Driver/James Cullen), Billy Bob Thornton (Cop/Slade Humphries), Oliver Jackson-Cohen (Killer), Carla Gugino (Detective Cicero), Maggie Grace (Lily), Moon Bloodgood (Marina), Adewale Akinnuoyle-Agbaje (The Evangelist/Alexander Jarod), Tom Berenger (Warden), Mike Epps (Roy Grone), Xander Berkeley (Sergeant Mallory), Lester Speight (Baphomet/Nixon Hovis), Matt Gerald (Driver's Brother/Gary), Annie Corley (Mother), Jennifer Carpenter (Woman/Nan Porterman), Michael Irby (Vaquero), Courtney Gains (Telemarketer/Prescott Ashton), John Cirigliano (Old Guy/Kenneth Tyson), Jonna Walsh (Teen Girl), Sid S. Liuau (Kenny)

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For a professional wrestler looking to break into Hollywood, action movies are the obvious point of entry. That is where Dwayne Johnson began his acting career, retaining his WWE name The Rock on an appearance in The Mummy Returns
and making its spin-off The Scorpion King his first of several star projects. Then in 2007, Johnson's Disney vehicle The Game Plan grossed over $90 million domestically and it seemed his new calling might be family film star. Having worn that title thrice in the flesh and once vocally, Johnson now returns to his roots in Faster, an R-rated action flick.

Johnson plays a man identified as Driver (the astute will spot the name "James Cullen" in printed documents). As the film opens, he is in the final moments of a 10-year prison sentence. The driver can barely hear the warden's parting words, before he briskly exits the facility and breaks into a sprint. He picks up a car, a 1971 SS Chevelle, and begins his mission at a speed befitting the title. He walks into a workplace and offs a telemarketer, unprovoked.

The film opens with its driver protagonist (Dwayne Johnson) released from prison and ready for revenge. Billy Bob Thornton takes a break from his first love (music) to play Slade Humphries, a drug-addled homicide detective approaching retirement.

What kind of hero is this, you ask? The wronged kind. This hardened ex-con was the driver of a bank robbery operation. His brother was killed in the same setup that sent him to prison with a metal plate in his head saving him from his own near-death experience. Now on the outside, our vengeful lead has a list of names and addresses of everyone involved in that deadly sting.

Since his first revenge slaying was carried out in broad daylight and captured on video, authorities are soon looking for our man. Leading the investigation is the Cop (Billy Bob Thornton), a veteran detective on the verge of retirement with a lingering heroin problem and a separated wife and son. He teams up with a sharp lady detective (Carla Gugino) on the case. Also pursuing the fugitive is the Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a wealthy thrill-seeking assassin who is ready to give up the chase and marry his ever-concerned girlfriend Lily (Maggie Grace), just as long as he can see this final assignment to fruition.

Faster is written by brothers Tony and Joe Gayton, who have separately penned crime films (among them, Murder by Numbers, The Salton Sea, and Adam Sandler's Bulletproof) but only once before been credited together (on a failed Madeleine Stowe pilot). Faster is directed by Notorious' George Tillman, Jr. (Men of Honor, Soul Food), remaining behind the camera after years of producing.

The self-made multi-millionaire, hobby assassin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) pursuing our lead "beats" yoga in his introductory scene. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson thirsts for justice in the revenge thriller "Faster."

One of Tillman's biggest influences appears to be The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, whose opening is evoked in this film's character introductions, whose structure is recalled in the relationships between the three sympathy-spreading leads, and whose Ennio Morricone theme is repeatedly heard as the Killer's ringtone. Another inspiration seems to be the 1970s. Johnson's character drives that car, which functions as a fourth lead of sorts, often to songs you won't recognize but can identify by their '70s sound. Thornton's cop wears shirts and a corduroy jacket that look like they're from the '70s.
All of this confirms that Tillman and the Gaytons are '70s children and drawn to make a gritty film like ones they remember (many of which time has forgotten) with dirty cops, violent payback, and shades of gray.

They do a pretty decent job of recalling the past but remaining in the present, comfortably blending nostalgic sentiment and storytelling with the sensibilities of 21st century filmmaking. Despite its generic title, Faster is compelling enough to stay invested in even as you wonder how such a distinctive presence as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson can avoid notice and suspicion while having his face broadcast on television. The film delivers a couple of twists in its final acts that you only might be able to figure out if you're expecting twists. (Forget what I just said.) The main surprise adds a new angle without undermining existing ones. That is pretty much all that's asked of climactic twists. While this one doesn't elevate the film to new heights, it raises the stakes and lessens the predictability of the outcome.

Payback action doesn't play as broadly as other types of films and yet it also doesn't have the built-in audience of some genres. While I have no particular fondness for a vengeance vehicle, no clear knowledge of the fare this seems to channel (besides The Good, The Bad and the Ugly), and no appreciation for Johnson in any of his capacities, I found Faster to be a reasonably engaging and exciting movie. Not too many agreed or wanted to see for themselves. Getting buried in the traditionally fruitful Thanksgiving bustle, Faster grossed just $23 million stateside, making it the lowest earner in Johnson's career, aside from Richard Kelly's limited release anthology Southland Tales.

Faster gets another chance to find an audience today, when Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases it to DVD and Blu-ray.

Faster DVD cover art -- click to buy DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: March 1, 2011
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $24.96
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($34.95 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Faster boasts remarkable clarity, detail, and sharpness in the DVD's flawless 2.40:1 widescreen transfer, which retains some light deliberate grain. Par for the course, the Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is satisfyingly active, delivering gun shots and revved engines with gusto and plenty of directionality. I've got no complaints whatsoever over picture and sound.

Director George Tillman, Jr. explains what he liked about the deleted scenes and original ending and why he chose to ultimately let them go. The showdown originally shot as the ending to "Faster" furthered the parallels to "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The DVD delivers a modest but worthwhile couple of extras. First up is an alternate ending, the one originally conceived and shot but ultimately scrapped in response to test screening feedback.
It is substantially different and, though absolutely less satisfying than the film's actual conclusion, an enjoyable inclusion here. It runs 12 minutes and 40 seconds including George Tillman, Jr.'s optional 90-second video introduction.

The other bonus feature is another group of five deleted scenes (11:00), four of which are preceded by Tillman's on-camera intros. There is some interesting material here; nothing as consequential as the alternate ending, but some perspective is gained.

The DVD opens with Sony's make.believe promo, a pitch for 3D featuring characters from Open Season, and trailers for Quarantine 2: Terminal, The Green Hornet, Sniper: Reloaded, S.W.A.T.: Firefight, and The Hit List. The last four can also be viewed from the Previews menu.

The main menu gives us a fairly standard action montage, while the rest supply the static, silent version of that. An in-case insert promotes 3D and Sony's make.believe philosophy.

This through-the-speedometer shot enforces the film's title and its driver's (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) need for speed.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I didn't expect much from Faster, but this violent vengeance flick held my attention and kept me entertained. That is all it sets out to achieve and all that most action fans will want of it. You will need to be drawn to the genre to care and have modest goals to be satisfied. If you do, Faster should prove to be a more worthwhile viewing than its blink-and-miss theatrical run suggests. With the exception of the movie's trailer, Sony's DVD delivers what it should, most notably an outstanding feature presentation.

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Faster Songs List (in order of use): Old Regular Baptists - "I Am a Poor Pilgrim of Sorrow", Guido & Maurizio De Angelis - "Goodbye My Friend", Jeffrey Luck Lucas - "Grifos Muertos", Juan Guerrero y Su Grupo - "Pobre Palomito", Kenny Rogers & The First Edition - "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)", Iggy Pop - "I Wanna Be Your Dog", Mitchell Townsend - "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Theme)", Mitchell Townsend - "Seti", The National - "Bloodbuzz Ohio", Javier Solis - "En Mi Viejo San Juan", Top Floor - "Lean 'N", "Trouble in My Way", "John the Revelator", The Heavy - "Short Change Hero"

Faster: Music from the Motion Picture:
Download from iTunes
Download MP3s from Amazon.com
Buy CD from Amazon.com

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Reviewed March 1, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2010 TriStar Pictures, CBS Films, Castle Rock Entertainment, State Street Pictures, and 2011 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
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