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Faster is cars, guns, muscles and cliches
Johnson on a trail of vengeance that swings from campy to ridiculous
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Dwayne Johnson is out for revenge in "Faster." - photo by Chuck Hodes

Here's all you need to know about the new Dwayne Johnson star vehicle, "Faster."

Johnson's character drives a 1971 Chevelle SS. His gun is a Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan (a bulging cannon of a short pistol). And to prepare for this role, his return to action movies, Johnson bulked up to the physique he had when he was called The Rock.

That's "Faster" in a nutshell: cars, guns, muscles.

Johnson's character is known only as "Driver," because he drove get away for his brother's bank robbery several years earlier. They pulled off the heist, but someone ratted them out soon after.

Another group of criminals then held Driver and his brother at gunpoint and forced Driver to reveal where the money was hidden. Then they shot Driver in the head, which he miraculously survived, and killed his brother.

By the way, if the synopsis thus far seems ridiculous, try actually watching the movie.

When we meet Driver at the beginning of the film, he has just been released from a 10-year prison sentence and wants revenge. Now. Immediately. In other words, he wants vengeance "faster" than most other revenge movies. Oy.

As promised, Driver starts shooting people just a couple of minutes into the film. Almost as quickly, someone hires a hit man, known only as "Killer," to hunt down Driver.

Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is the most nonsensical character in a movie chock full of nonsense. His backstory? He was born with a debilitating bone condition in his legs, but he somehow overcame it. He has big scars on his legs.

Then he developed some computer thingy and sold it for a huge price tag, making himself incredibly wealthy. He's a thrill seeker and constantly needs a challenge, so he became a hit man. Now, he lives in a swank house, practices yoga poses only 10 people in the world can do (I swear to you I'm not making this up) and dates a beautiful woman named Lily (Maggie Grace). Lily supports Killer's occupation.

Also hot on Driver's trail is "Cop" (Billy Bob Thornton), a corrupt detective who only has 10 more days before retirement - but is going to work this one last case. Bet you've never heard that before.

For reasons that escape me, Carla Gugino, Tom Berenger and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje took roles in this movie. Gugino mostly just drinks coffee and Berenger has a minute of screen time. Akinnuoye-Agbaje, born and raised in London, pulls off a flawless Southern accent and doesn't over-play his "Evangelist" character, but his performance is utterly wasted in what is probably the movie's most absurd scene.

"Faster" begins with a sense of humor. The music, campy slow-motion and indulgent shots of the car and Johnson's body recall the grindhouse and exploitation days of the '70s. For a while I thought the movie might actually be fun.

But director George Tillman Jr. ("Soul Food," "Notorious") and his crew obviously couldn't decide what kind of movie they were making. Because the sense of humor disappears about 20 minutes in, replaced by weak, clichéd attempts to create drama.

Look, if you're going to make a shameless shoot 'em up, own it and make a shameless shoot 'em up. If "Faster" had been a series of shootouts and car chases, it might not have been a higher quality movie, but it certainly would have been more enjoyable.

Alas, they just ran out of ideas at a certain point. The smoking gun evidence of that is a scene in which a character does drugs, and the movie launches into a dream-like sequence set to the tune of "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)."

Sorry, but after the classic trip scene in "The Big Lebowski," that song is off-limits.

The box office is packed with new releases right now, so speed to a different movie this weekend. With a vengeance.

Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.

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