A man known as the Driver (played by Dwayne Johnson) is released from prison, having served time for taking part in a bank robbery. As soon as he gets his freedom, the Driver is jumping in a fast car, driving across Nevada and California, and killing everyone who he believes set him up and murdered his half-brother. The Driver has even made out list of the people on whom he needs to get revenge. Among those on the Driver’s list are a nightclub bouncer, a snuff film producer, an traveling evangelist, and one name that the Driver has not bothered to write down.
As the Driver conducts his killing spree, he is pursued by two other men who each have their own reason for wanting to find him. The Cop (Billy Bob Thornton) is close to retirement and has a heroin addiction. The Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is a hit man who views murder as a personal challenge and who plans to marry his girlfriend (Maggie Grace) as soon as he takes care of the Driver.
Today, we take Dwayne Johnson’s superstardom for granted so it’s interesting to go back and watch a movie like Faster, which was made when Johnson was still best known as a wrestler and there were still doubts about whether or not he had the screen presence to carry an entire film on his own. Though Johnson’s character is the main character and it’s his single-minded quest for revenge that propels the plot, the film spends as much time with the Cop and the Killer as it does with the Driver. The Driver doesn’t get much dialogue. Instead, the majority of the Driver’s scenes emphasize Johnson’s physical presence, casting him as the unstoppable hand of fate. Johnson doesn’t really get to show what he can do as an actor until nearly halfway through the film, when the Driver has an emotional meeting with his mother. Johnson acquits himself well in the scene but it’s still obvious that the film was made before people realized that Dwayne Johnson really could act.
Seen today, Faster is a relentless and exciting B-movie. It’s fast-paced and, even if it doesn’t give Johnson a chance to say much, it’s smart enough to surround him with memorable character actors like Billy Bob Thornton, Tom Berenger, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Carla Gugino. Even without a lot of dialogue, Dwayne Johnson is such an imposing figure and has so much screen presence that he dominates the film in a way that it’s hard to believe that there were ever any doubts about whether or not he could be a film star. Faster holds up well, as both an action movie and star-making vehicle for Dwayne Johnson.