THE ROCK’S NEW FILM NOT SOLID

Don’t look now, but the Tooth Fairy has morphed into a six-foot-four-inch, 225-pound, gun-wielding mass of muscle bent on revenge. Yes, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has returned to the action genre after a stint with Walt Disney Studios, and in his new movie, “Faster,” he plays a paroled convict out for vengeance against the guys who were responsible for the death of his brother. Unfortunately the film is a disjointed mishmash of three plots coupled with a preposterous denouement.

As the film opens Driver (Johnson) is being released from prison after have served 10 years for armed robbery. (By the way Driver was the driver during the robbery, and the other two main characters in the film are known simply as Cop and Killer.) As the warden is bidding farewell to Driver and offering him some advice about how to get along on the outside, he asks Driver whether or not he has any questions.

And Driver replies, “Where’s the exit?”

We follow him as he walks along the prison corridor and through the gates to freedom. Then he begins jogging, and he ends up in a junkyard where he finds a car that apparently has been left for him by someone (We never find out who.) because it is nicely covered with a cloth, and there is a loaded gun in it. A seedy criminal (Mike Epps) has given Driver the names of the people who killed his brother, and he wastes no time as he walks into an office building and blows away one of the workers there. Among the many ridiculous things about this movie is that Driver is able to meander in and out of places and kill people with no fear of being arrested. Where are the police? Damn if I know!

Now while Driver is off and rolling on his 5-day killing spree, two other plots begin to develop. One of them involves Cop (Billy Bob Thornton), who has a serious drug problem that caused his wife (Moon Goodblood) to leave him. He is a very sharp-witted police officer when he’s not strung out on heroin, and he is only few weeks away from retirement. But he can’t resist being involved in the Driver case, which upsets the lead cop (Carla Gugino) working it.

The third plotline revolves around Killer (Oliver-Jackson Cohen), a British hit man hired to kill Driver. Killer lives in a palatial house with a hot girlfriend (Maggie Grace), whom he plans to marry after completing his final assignment.

Now all of these plots finally merge in a conclusion that is as improbable as it is unsatisfying. I won’t give it away, but you will know what I mean if you decide to spend your money on this needlessly confusing and sadly inferior action thriller.

I think the main problem with the film is that there are too many plots that don’t have a chance to become developed fully enough, and even what happened when Driver’s brother is murdered isn’t made all that clear. The film also contained too many scenes of Johnson simply driving around in his car. However, in the movie’s production notes, Johnson spoke about how much he enjoyed these segments.

“I’ve had the opportunity to drive some fun cars in the past, but nothing this cool. I’ve ridden horses, camels — it’s not the same. You get behind the wheel of a muscle car like a Chevelle with a cool gun in hand, and it’s a ‘big boys with toys’ dream.”

I really loathe films that are shot in extremely dark tones, and this definitely is one of those. In fact, sometimes the lighting is so subdued that it’s difficult to see what is going on. Of course so much of the action is predictable that it doesn’t make any difference whether you can see it or not.

It’s an understatement to say that this film is terribly shallow, but then that’s the kind of films The Rock makes when he’s not employed by the Disney Studios. Actually the only real acting in the film comes from Thornton, whose portrayal of the troubled cop is the most interesting part of the movie. He desperately wants his wife back, and he has an overweight son who has a desire to play baseball. Unfortunately we never find out the root of Cop’s drug problem because the film keeps jumping around from one plot to the other.

Hardcore Rock fans probably will enjoy this movie, but I thought that it was a rambling mess, and the numerous driving scenes soon became painfully tedious. I also wish that Driver’s background had been developed more fully than it was because he could have been a very interesting character instead of a practically mute killing machine.

“Faster” (We’ll give it a six because of Billy Bob’s presence.) at least marks The Rock’s return to action films if it does nothing else. But it’s short on acting, and it suffers from multiple plots that don’t mesh smoothly. However, at least The Rock’s career is back on the fast track.

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