Isn’t it just a little ironic that aside from Dwayne Johnson’s kiddie fare, Faster is his slowest paced movie? That’s not an issue, flaw, or problem, it’s that the title implies something else entirely. Instead, we’re given a pleasing, fun, surprisingly detailed revenge thriller in which the ex-pro wrestler barely throws a punch.
That’s great actually, providing a break from Johnson’s need to play amateurish football players and tooth fairies. He’s a tough guy here, released from prison and smashing the facilities gate open only to run back to his car (miles down the road) to start a killing spree. The Driver (Johnson) was set up during a bank robbery, captured by those who set him up. They killed his brother, and that tends to set a guy off.
There is some action throughout, a flashback car chase being the highlight in terms of its technical acuity. It sells the character as one heck of a wheelman, if not explaining his overwhelming physique and hand-to-hand skills. Driver is care free, running towards people who are shooting at him without so much as a flinch. Driver is classic Hollywood tough guy style with a modern tinge.
Chasing after Driver are Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and Cop (Billy Bob Thorton). No, character names are not a priority here. Killer is a spoiled rich kid seeking non-stop thrills, eventually turning into a professional assassin. He’s been hired to kill Driver, and the Cop seems to be on both of their trails.
Faster mixes in romance, drug abuse, broken homes, and family bonds, all of which strengthens the core of this story. There is far more information here than is to be expected, especially since Johnson is usually just a stand-in for muscle and brute force. Faster keeps those elements too, but with care. It doesn’t overload the script with any one element, mixing it up and keeping it fresh between some enjoyable gun play.
Sony issues Faster to Blu-ray with an AVC encode, a sparkling, rich, detailed presentation that is easily the best live action disc of the year so far (although there is a long way to go). Sharpness is exquisite, and since the film concerns drug abusing, weigh lifting, and slightly off-kilter men trying to kill each, there’s a lot of focus on the eyes. That means extensive close-ups, and every single one of them is a jaw-dropper. The level of fine detail here is truly a sight, and it never lets up.
Medium shots are gifted the same level of unrelenting definition, from clothes to skin. Environments are richly textured and without fault. A mild layer of grain sits over the image, completely unobtrusive and spiking only once. The encode doesn’t lose that fight either.
The mild moments of softness are quick to pass, seemingly the result of an optical zoom or focal issue when it was shot. There is one moment of aliasing at 5:33 as the car is first revealed, the only instance of that problem. An appropriate warm color palette is the dominate choice, the only deviation from that being the flashbacks. Those tend to veer cool with the exception of the car chase. Flesh tones take on a bronzed appearance that isn’t straying too far from reality to be an annoyance.
Black levels are miraculous, giving the image staggering amounts of dimensionality and with no loss of shadow detail. Scenes at night are spectacular. Contrast runs hot which does lead to a loss, an intentional means of giving the film a harsh look. Regardless of what the contrast is doing, some high-fidelity detail always remains within the frame, and it’s always eye candy.
Car engines don’t have quite the power they should in Faster, the first rev of the Driver’s engines lacking a bit of kick. The opening music carries more weight. Beefy gunfire makes up for it, the apartment shoot out at 32-minutes sending home the impact of each shot fired. The subwoofer again makes its presence felt inside a strip club at 48:28, ambient music almost swallowed entirely by the bass.
Surrounds are spiffy too, tracking vehicles as they pass through the soundfield flawlessly. Don’t worry as the fronts are on the receiving end of a workout too, widely split for DTS-HD satisfaction.
The main shoot outs each have their elements besides bass, the apartment loaded with splintering wood that does one of those “woosh” type of effects over the head of the listener. The second in a basement power room smashes a couple of fuse boxes that begin to spark. The electrical faults are carefully plotted around the soundfield, either dominating the fronts or the surrounds dependent on camera placement.
Balancing is flawless, and the dialogue is afforded all that modern audio fidelity can give it. It stays in the center as there are no instances of positional dialogue, but that’s fine. There’s plenty of stuff to appreciate all around the listener.
An alternate ending comes with an optional introduction from director George Tillman Jr. The same goes for a selection of five separate deleted scenes where he makes mention of a director’s cut that is not included. The Cast of Faster is a general promo. Weapons and Wheels looks at the gun and car choices with very specific reasons relating to the characters. Four animatics are followed by trailers.