Dwayne Johnson buckles his seatbelt and wheelspins around town to exact revenge upon the men responsible for killing his brother and getting him locked up after a bank robbery 10 years earlier. Billy Bob Thornton's junkie cop does his best to keep up, but a lean plot and a fast car are enough to keep The Rock rolling for long enough to entertain in this violent thriller.
George Tillman Jr
Billy Bob Thornton
As Tom Berenger's warden releases 'Driver' (Johnson) from his incarceration for bank robbery, he congratulates the ex-con for surviving the horror of jail, and pleads with him to avoid the darkness that got him through the ordeal.
But Driver has no intention of leaving his dark past behind him. Rather, he intends to get in his muscle car, drive straight up to his past and shoot it in the face.
As the carnage begins, with an office employee taking a bullet to the forehead, junkie cop 'Cop' (Billy Bob Thornton) and his partner Cicero (Gugino) pick up the trail and start to figure out why a vigilante would be so keen to murder some of the town's nastiest villains.
This is not complex storytelling. The Driver backstory is teased out via the confused cop partners, and there's a couple of handbrake plot turns along the way, albeit signposted well in advance.
But this is called Faster for a reason, and it's more down to the stripped-down, subtlety-free plot than Johnson's driving (which is largely reduced to wheelspins out of car parks, as it happens). It also explains why half of the characters don't even have names.
Such as 'Killer' (Lark Rise To Candleford tough guy Oliver Jackson-Cohen), the pretentious English hitman who after claiming to have 'beaten yoga' is hired by the bad guys' unseen ringleader to put an end to Driver's vengeance before he finishes the job.
Until Killer's intervention, Driver makes light work of his enemies, who are dispatched in a series of violent confrontations and, in true Republican style, they're the kind of executions that are deemed acceptable and keep our hero heroic, because, you know, the villains were like, really bad.
(Such as one bad guy who also happens to be a paedophilic, snuff movie-making robber of bank robbers, just so you're under no illusions that he needs to die. Immediately.)
Elsewhere, Billy Bob Thornton gets a surprisingly sweet, yet unfulfilled backstory featuring his dysfunctional relationship with his young son, while Gugino gets to do little more than deliver plot details about five minutes after the audience already figured them out.
But this is all about Johnson and his increasing quality as a leading (action) man. Sure, his emoting needs work, and he may never cry on command, but he handles the action convincingly, and shows hints of a depth not usually reached by former professional wrestlers.
By the end you'll be wondering why on Earth 'Killer' was even in the movie (especially since he can't hit a six-and-a-half-foot brick outhouse at 10 paces), let alone his doting girlfriend (Maggie Grace)... and why the twist wasn't a little more logical.
Still, it's glossily entertaining stuff. And yeah, it's fast-ish... though Furiouser nails it better.