Faster (2010)

(In theaters, December 2010) Sophistication is overrated in most movies, as so it is that this exploitation revenge film homage is exactly what it purports to be: a straight-ahead action thriller in which a lot of people shoot at each other.  Dwayne Johnson headlines the film as an ex-convict whose first and last task out of prison is to kill those who betrayed him and murdered his brother: His perpetually-angry expression and shoulders hunched forward in unstoppable motion are exactly what the film needs in order to earn its title.  Faster seldom stops, and yet it manages to juggle a few fascinating characters along the way, including one of the oddest, most sympathetic elite assassin in recent memory.  It’s all no-CGI, muscle-cars, big guns, 70s music until the end.  The action isn’t especially well-directed, but the film itself races forward relentlessly, and it scores a few great sequences along the way: While Faster can’t aspire to depth, it does something interesting with its theme of revenge, a few seemingly disconnected radio sermons eventually leading to a satisfying climactic sequence that wraps up one of the film’s subplots.  Alas, it’s perhaps one of the only threads effectively wrapped up in a messy climax that doesn’t quite know how to deal with its tangled-up ball of intrigue: While Faster doesn’t leave us hanging, it doesn’t conclude as well as it could, and the result isn’t as satisfying as it could have been.  This is a shame, because otherwise Faster is a highly satisfying revenge film that doesn’t try to pass itself as anything higher or lower.  It’s a perfect antidote for the Oscar-baiting films currently tripping over each other in a bid for dramatic meaning.

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