The movie opens with Johnson as Driver (yes, we get archetypal characters rather than ones with actual names) getting out of prison after serving ten years. He spent that time working out, busting heads, and apparently making money somehow. Anyway, he marches out of prison and hoofs it to the nearest town where a mint early 70's Chevelle is waiting for him with a gigantic Magnum under the seat. Before long his image is plastered all over the news for not one, not two, but three murders. That brings in the Cop (Billy Bob Thornton) and Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, looking like a dead ringer for Jake Gyllenhaal), both of whom are on the trail of Driver.
Set up as an homage to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, with Johnson, Thornton, and Jackson-Cohen filling in for Eastwood, Van Cleef, and Wallach, respectively. If you don't catch on, that's all right the Killer uses Ennio Morricone's iconic theme as a ring tone. Still, it did not really work all that well for me. In someways it felt like a revenge thriller had a slasher film grafted onto it with Johnson filling in for the silent killer.
The movie plays it pretty straight. Driver sets about killing those who sent him up the river (it's not like he was an innocent or anything), Cop is a man with his own issues but is on the case, Killer is a rich kid who kills for fun and has been hired to take out Driver. Everyone comes together in the end for an explosive final act. Well, somewhat explosive, it is a telegraphed finale you will see coming, thus robbing it of its impact.
The core of this movie is a good one. Some tweaking and this could have been a great violent revenge flick. I am not sure what this movie is supposed to be. None of the characters are likable, some are downright annoying, and the attempts to inject style come off as lame and overused. Many of the action sequences are in slow motion, our anti-hero doesn't have much to say, and none of these characters have any depth. I can do without depth if the style works, but it didn't.
As I was watching the Rock dole out vengeance (which I liked), I was also wondering what could have made this movie better. A good start would be getting rid of the Killer character, the guy was just annoying, especially when he held us captive for his phoned in therapy session. I have t say the only good thing about him was his girlfriend played by Maggie Grace.
More often than not, my thoughts turned to other possible directorial choices. The first names that came to mind were Neveldine and Taylor. Think about it, this story and these characters with the insane minds behind the Crank movies? Can you imagine the craziness that would have ensured? Could have been brilliant. The other director that came to mind was Joseph Kahn, the man responsible for Torque. Now that was not a good movie, but he had some interesting and wild ideas for it and I think his sensibilities could have been fun in this movie.
I really wanted this to be good. I like Dwayne Johnson and believe he has a future in big time, R-rated action movies. He has great screen presence, can pull off action, and is not a bad actor (not great). He really does present an imposing character in Faster. In better hands this could have been a lot of fun.