Dwayne Johnson’s signature verbosity missing from lame thriller

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson became a World Wrestling Entertainment legend not because of his extraordinary physique or his technical proficiency — he made himself memorable at the mike, tearing his opponents down to size with colorful trash talk and a challenging glare, punctuated by his cocked “people’s eyebrow.”

In “Faster,” the ludicrous new thriller from “Notorious” director George Tillman Jr., Johnson’s verbal prowess is not the only resource wasted — Billy Bob Thornton, Carla Gugino and common sense are collateral victims of brothers Tony and Joe Gayton’s crude story — but its absence may be the movie’s most vexing miscalculation.

Johnson, as WWE fans quickly learned, has charisma to spare. In person, he is sharp-witted, funny and effortlessly engaging. Those qualities translate easily to the screen, but “Faster” never gives him a chance.

Here, he is the strong, silent type — too silent, it turns out. His job is to look mean, shoot first and ask questions never. In the unlikely event he was paid by the word, the producers should have enough cash left over to enjoy a bountiful holiday season.

Nobody in the violent world of “Faster” is allowed to crack a smile, and if they are not having any fun, imagine how we feel. Johnson plays Driver — his occupation, not his name — who is an ex-con sworn to avenge the murder of his brother.

Thornton plays Cop, the heroin-addicted detective assigned to stop Driver before he deposits a bullet in the skull of every man who has wronged him.

There is a subplot involving an Internet startup mogul turned insecure hit man (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), who hunts Driver first for pay and later to preserve his professional integrity. And there is a half-hearted attempt to humanize Johnson’s anti-hero with a last-
second spiritual turn.

Why? To lend the story the illusion of depth, I guess, but “Faster” — a slapdash pastiche of poorly shot shootouts and underworld seediness — creates a universe even God would have trouble saving.

Most intriguing among the participants is Thornton, not simply because he is given the most scenery to chew, but because Cop’s penchant for self-destruction seems perilously at odds with his paternal instincts and underlying moral code. The latter vanishes in a flash — I will not tell you how, and I still do not know why — but when he is on screen, it is easy to imagine him in a better movie.

MOVIE REVIEW

Faster

One and a half stars

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Maggie Grace, Carla Gugino

Written by Tony Gayton, Joe Gayton

Directed by George Tillman Jr.

Rated R

Running time 1 hour 38 minutes

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

SF police shoot burglary suspect in Mission District

Man allegedly attacked officers before being shot in first on-duty SFPD shooting since June 2018

Not even heavy rain can stop the 25th annual SantaCon

Jolly, drunken fun event for Santas is the ‘least wonderful time of the year’ for many locals

Ronen says $100M service expansion is ‘going to fix’ SF’s mental health crisis

Compromise mental health plan has backing of mayor, full Board of Supervisors

Civil liberties lawyer files to take on Pelosi

A San Francisco-based civil liberties lawyer, progressive advocate, DJ and poet is… Continue reading

Supes sound off against bill increasing housing density near transit hubs

Senator Wiener calls resolution opposing SB 50 ‘little more than symbolic political theater’

Most Read