FASTER:

If a movie tells me at its outset that I need to suspend disbelief because of its content and tone, I’ll gladly go with it if it’s consistent in style and entertaining. In its opening scenes, this film’s lead character (Dwayne Johnson) is released from prison and subconsciously wins our sympathy when he shoots a child rapist (John Cirigliano) and a telemarketer (Courtney Gains) in the head. At this point, audiences should realize they’re watching a vicarious, B-movie revenge fantasy where we find ourselves pulling for someone whose antisocial nature seems justified. That’s acceptable in this narrative since the two cops (Carla Gugino, Billy Bob Thornton) and the thrill-seeking hired killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) pursuing Johnson (THE RUNDOWN) all have their own issues to contend with. All this is to say that if you take this movie literally and seriously, you’ll never get past all of its plot holes like the inability of the police to find “The Rock” even though his face is flashed all over the media as he speeds conspicuously through the West in a souped-up Chevelle SS. But the film is also peopled with intriguing supporting characters, an excellent musical soundtrack from Clint Mansell and some nifty car chases that recall early ‘70s flicks of this ilk like VANISHING POINT (1971). Even though the concluding revelations are somewhat implausible, this is still a well-directed, existential exercise in violent melodrama from George Tillman, Jr. (NOTORIOUS) that might have the potential to gain a cult following in its second life on DVD. As cinematic cuisine, FASTER is artery clogging junk food with a side of greasy fries thrown in to finish the job. But sometimes a Big Mac or a Pato can taste pretty good.

CRITIC’S GRADE: B-

CRITIC’S “DRIVE-BY” COMMENTARY: I’ll admit that I was wrong when I originally thought that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would be a joke as an actor. It’s likely that his previous career as a professional wrestler turned out to be a natural bridge to the entertainment field. My favorite Johnson role was in the otherwise forgettable BE COOL (2005) in which he plays against type as a gay bodyguard who’s a wannabe actor. Watching his hilarious audition scene where he sings Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” almost made that movie worth the admission price.