Faster (2010, directed by George Tilllman, Jr.)


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.

10 Things To Be Thankful For In 2010


It’s the Thanksgiving season, that time when bloggers everywhere come up with lists of things that they are thankful for.  Here’s just 10 of the many things that I’ve been thankful for in 2010.

1) The fifth season of Dexter

I have to be honest.  I’ve been a fan of Dexter since the show’s 1st season but I wasn’t sure if the show would be able to survive after the fourth season ended with Rita (Julie Benz) dead in a bloody bathtub.  However, season 5 has been a triumph.  Yes, a little too much time has been devoted to the domestic troubles of LaGuerta and Batista (Lauren Velez and the always intriguing David Zayas) but Michael C. Hall (as Dexter) and Jennifer Carpenter (as Deb) have done some of their best work this season.  Even better, this season has featured two brilliant performances from guest stars Peter Weller and, especially, Julia Stiles (who really deserves her own spin-off).  Still, you have to wonder if any murder has ever actually been solved in Miami…

2) Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander. 

In three films — The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, Rapace created one of the first truly iconic film characters of the 21st century and that’s an accomplishment that will stand regardless of any attempts by the Hollywood mainstream to steal her accomplishment through any unnecessary remakes. 

3) Lost

As more time has passed, the more I’ve come to admit just how dissatisfied I was with how the creators of Lost decided to end their show.  Still, that doesn’t change the fact that, for several years, I scheduled my life around when the next episode of Lost was going to air.  I may not be thankful for a series finale that left way too many questions unanswered (why couldn’t children be born on the island?  What was the sickness?) but even the final season featured some of the show’s best moments.

4) The Walking Dead

I’m not a huge fan of Frank Darabont (sorry, but The Shawshank Redemption sucks) but I’m happy to say that he didn’t fuck up The Walking Dead.

5) Kathryn Bigelow broke the glass ceiling.

I’m still not a huge fan of The Hurt Locker but I am definitely a fan of Kathryn Bigelow.  As bad as this year’s Oscar ceremony was, it was worth watching just to see Bigelow become the first woman to ever win an Oscar for best director.  In many ways, it almost felt like a fantasy come to life — not only did Bigelow win a historic victory but she did it by beating her ex, James Cameron (who, to judge from his films, has never met a woman to whom he wouldn’t condescend).  The fact that she then gave one of the only genuine acceptance speeches of the entire ceremony was a wonderful bonus.

6) Blue Valentine was rated NC-17.

The upcoming film Blue Valentine (which I have yet to see) was reportedly given an NC-17 rating on account of scenes featuring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams having sex.  That the film would feature characters played Gosling and Williams having sex makes sense when you consider that the movie is specifically about their marriage.  However, despite this, Blue Valentine was rated NC-17 while films like The Expendables, A Nightmare on Elm Street, the Saw films — in which thousands of people are graphically killed and tortured on-screen — are given an R rating as a matter of routine.  If Blue Valentine had been about Ryan Gosling murdering Michelle Williams (as opposed to fucking her), the film probably would have an R rating and would be considered appropriate viewing in malls across America.  I’m thankful for this rating because it serves as a reminder that it’s okay to show a woman being humiliated, tortured, or killed just as long as you don’t show her actually enjoying an orgasm.

7) Exit Through The Gift Shop

The rest of you mainstreamers can talk about how much you love the Social Network for the rest of eternity, if you want.  Exit Through The Gift Shop is still the best movie of 2010.

8 ) Lisa Marie finally figured out how to work her DVR.

Yes, yes, I know.  DVR has been around like forever and it’s all old news and I’m sure there’s something even better than DVR that everyone but me is raving about and using right now but — look, shut up, okay?  Yes, I’ve had DVR forever but I just figured out how to actually make it work a few months ago.  And I love it!  Now, if I want to sit down in the living room at 3 in the morning and watch old episodes of Project Runway, there’s no way anyone can stop me.

9) Joseph Gordon-Levitt floating through a dream hallway in Inception

Inception was a film full of excellent set pieces and memorable images but whenever I think about the movie, I will always see Joseph Gordon-Levitt floating through that hallway in a suit and looking rather adorable as he does it.

10) Cthulhu on South Park

Well, of course.

That’s just ten things I’m thankful for and I didn’t even start to talk about Scott Caan on Hawaii 5-0, James Franco in 127 Hours, or movies like Fish Tank, Winter’s Bone, and Never Let Me Go.  What are you thankful for?  Leave a comment, let the world know.  The best comment wins a renewed sense of peace and a happy new year.  (Please note that this is not a legally binding document.)