Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Faster – Of Bullets and Vengeance

Dwane Johnson returns as an action hero in George Tillman Jr.’s “Faster”.

Johnson plays Driver who, after several years of serving his sentence, comes out of prison an inimical character out to avenge the death of his brother. A few years ago, his brother and he figured in a heist that ended up getting double crossed by a separate band of thugs who stole their loot. In the process, they slit his brother’s throat and shot a bullet through Driver’s skull. He miraculously survived the incident, but served a prison term for their crime, while the ones who got their money run scott-free,

As a free man, he goes straight to retrieve a car and some supplies, and with a list of names on his hand, he figures on a no-holds-barred retribution that spanned for 3 days or so. But unknown to him, a couple of other guys are hot on Driver’s heels: a coccaine-addicted cop (Billy Bob Thornton) who practically begged his superiors to take on the case; and a psychotic hitman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) who’s bored and needs the challenge of a rival worthy of his fatalistic acumen.

Johnson’s Driver is the archetypal 80’s action hero: when he crosses the streets, he doesn’t even care if vehicles are rushing through a busy highway. They all stop while he saunters off with a wooden stare straight ahead, sputtering words the way Schwarzenegger did with “Hasta la vista, Baby!” or “I’ll be back.”

Unfortunately, this doesn’t lend realism to the story. His face is pasted in every paper, and everytime the TV is on, a news comes out with webcam scenes of Driver’s carnage: no masks, no dodging, no discreet escape contrivances. Yet everytime he shows himself to his would-be victims, everyone asks who he is? Are they so idiotic they can’t even read the papers or watch the news (that seem to be blaring news flash about him) by the hour?

In several scenes, detectives discuss his case. They are aware that Driver carries a list of people for his manhunt, yet these people weren’t even forewarned or provided protection. Despite this, they all seemed to be expecting him, yet they weren’t intent to run for cover.

The side story on “The Killer” is baffling, but interesting nevertheless. He is this over achiever who has scaled summits, won sports events, and garnered riches from his astute mind (he was a tech wizard who sold a multi-million dollar IT business at a young age). Why he turns to a life of crime is conveniently overlooked, thus we can only infer is due to psychological instability. This is deftly played by British actor Oliver Jackson-Cohen who’s so good looking, his character was described by an on-looker to the police as “Beautiful... like a movie star!” In a scene where he’s doing yoga half-naked, while assuming the lotus position, he graciously rises from the floor, with two hands holding his weight. As his whole body turns upside down, feet still locked in the same lotus position, his hand confidently balances and carries the whole weight suspended in mid-air. This scene lasted for a couple of minutes, but it was so beautiful, I caught myself in awe. Acrobatic marvels like that don’t always come in slambang actioners like this.

That his bad-ass demeanor isn’t adequately explained in the story is a disservice to Mr. Jackson-Cohen’s other-worldly pulchritude.

As for Mr. Johnson, I have always liked his comic turns in the last few years. I am not so sure this action flick isn't a misstep.

Oliver Jackson-Cohen is up for a worthy opponent: someone who's "faster".

Oliver Jackson-Cohen: Dosen't he remind you of Jake Gyllenhaal... with the British accent!

Oliver Jackson-Cohen is 25, born from London, to designer Betty Jackson. He stands 6'3" and secured a place at the Lee Strasberg acting school. Before landing a major role for a TV series ("Lark Rise to Candleford"), he washed vases at a florist. He can wash my vases anytime. :->

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