Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

They call him The Driver in this movie ‘Faster’, he’s played by Duane Johnson, and The Driver is a bad man. The Driver is about to be released from prison, after pulling a dime, and the guards charged with letting him out of his cell are clearly scared to death. The inmates relentlessly taunt The Driver as he strolls to the office of the Warden (Tom Berenger) to suffer through some nonsense he has to say, but notice they make these taunts behind the safety of steel doors and Plexiglas. The Driver is pissed. Terminally so. This cat has a constant mad-on. Now that he’s out of the joint, the Driver sprints to his classic Chevelle, checks his revolver and checks his list… a lot like Santa Clause if Santa was a 6’4" 260lb. ball of pure hatred who delivered the gift of bullets to the head, because everybody on The Driver’s list has been very, very naughty.

Why is the dude shooting people in the head? Well the trailer pretty tells us all we need to know and that is some bad people are responsible for killing my man’s brother, for reasons we won’t get into, and he takes care of his first victim even before the opening credits roll. Tracking our killer are top cop Cicero (Carla Gugino) who has been saddled with a heroin addicted sad sack of a cop (Billy Bob Thornton) who informs us… repeatedly… that he is going to be retiring in ten days. I think we all have seen enough movies to know that when anybody, from priests to janitors, informs us that they are going to retire they usually end up dead. I’m not going to spoil it for you but he does mention it an awful lot.

Also tracking our victim is an over-achieving British assassin who we will only know as The Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) who has been sent after The Driver immediately after the first hit because somebody somewhere in this movie knows the score and wants to nip this before The Driver makes his way to him. The Killer has issues, and we’re not going to get into that either.

Telemarketers, bouncers, preachers and deviants all face the wrath of this Driver with none of this bringing the man any satisfaction… but he soldiers on. The real question is who set him up ten years ago leaving his brother dead on the floor, and The Driver with a bullet in the back of his head?

‘Faster’, directed by George Tillman Jr. whose last movie was the outstanding Notorious B.I.G. biopic ‘Notorious’, is a strange and different kind of action / revenge movie. One of the things that we accept in any kind of action movie is that most of it simply isn’t going to make a lot of sense… we just accept this… but ‘Faster’ is different in the fact that screenwriters took a lot of care in making sure that a lot of we saw was logically connected in some kind of way. For instance it is clear that the decidedly ethnic Driver and his European brother look nothing alike. Fine, I’ll just accept that. But this movie takes the time to circle back and explain to us why this is the case and not only is this explanation relevant and logical but it’s possibly the most critical plot point in the entire movie in dressing down why The Driver is so dead set on doing what he’s doing. There are a lot of instances in this movie that are similar to that example which almost makes this bloody, violent action revenge flick… soulful.

This isn’t to say that ‘Faster’ is the bedrock of coherence. If you have a tatted up 6’4" 260 pound muscle bound dude that looks as unique as Duane Johnson does, with his face plastered on the news for shooting people in the skull, driving a car as rare as ’71 Chevelle, while completely ignoring the laws of the road… chances are he’s going to draw some attention here and there. But no, he seemed to float in and out of crowded nightclubs, busy hospitals and lively revivals completely unnoticed, with his entire stealth process consisting of the lowering of his eyes. I’m thinking I’d notice that guy. I wouldn’t mess with that guy, but I’d notice him and probably call the police. Eventually.

But I did enjoy ‘Faster’. A lot actually. Johnson steps away from playing tutu wearing faeries to give a double edged performance in which he says very little but reveals an awful lot. You need a drug addicted cop who’s at the end of his line… Billy Bob Thornton is your guy. You need a tough as nails cop who you still wouldn’t mind being handcuffed to a bedpost while getting beat silly with her billyclub… Carla Gugino is your woman. At its core ‘Faster’ is bare and about as simple as it gets. Bad dude shoots worst dudes in the head while driving a sweet ride. But if you are interested in a little more it will give it to you, and I’m not kidding here when I say that this an action movie that also deftly, not overtly, delves into the issues of race, redemption, forgiveness, and mental illness among other things while still giving us a big angry dude who shoots people in the head and drives a sweet ride. Where I come from you can’t beat that with a stick.

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