*Every once in a while a film comes along that is perfect for its genre. It may not garner any awards or accolades, but fans of that genre will be in awe of it. “Faster”, directed by George Tillman Jr., is one such film.
Starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Billy Bob Thornton, Jr., “Faster” is a tale of revenge, triumph and lots of a bullets and cool cars.
The Rock is already a pretty big dude, and we know that’s the understatement of the day, but the former pro wrestler says he put on upwards of 30 pounds of a muscle for this role. His character is fresh out of jail from a 10 year prison bid. Is it overkill? Not according to Mr. Johnson.
“Bigger is always better. I’ve worked my butt off for this movie,” the extra buffed actor told EURweb.com and other outlets at the film’s press conference in Beverly Hills. “It was a role that I was excited about playing. It fit with the character who was incarcerated for about ten years. In the prison population, in that environment, a lot of the training is very unsophisticated. It’s a lot of moving weight and there’s a density to a lot of prisoners’ muscularity when they train like that for years.”
Billy Bob Thornton is a veteran actor by anyone’s standards. He has been in some roles in which you jeer him, and in other roles where you cheer for him. In “Faster” Thornton plays a detective who kind of skews the lines of good and bad. He’s a human and Thornton says that’s exactly what he was aiming for and that’s the effect the writers instilled in each of the other characters as well.
“I think one of the flaws in most commercial action movies is that the characters are usually not very developed,” said Thornton. “They’re there to just service the job. A lot of times you have this movie star hero and then you have these bad guys who are just there to be killed by the hero. They’re just nameless, faceless people and as a result you’re really not afraid of them because you don’t see them ask somebody to pass the salt. You don’t see them with a family. In this case, and it’s a credit to the screenwriters, they gave each character some type of story. That sort of world weariness of the character adds to the movie. He’s not black or white. It puts him in a very gray area.”
The movie starts out with a lot of people dying really fast, but we would imagine that’s just to get your adrenaline pumping. As the story develops the shooting deaths slows down a little and the film matures.
“The whole script started out with the idea that some guy gets out of prison and starts shooting people in the head as fast as he can,” Director George Tillman, Jr. said. “Then you find out that that’s your protagonist and you find that out by the end of the first act. Yeah, he busts down a lot of doors and he kills a lot of people but you eventually find out there’s something else going on because who would want to sit there and watch this guy blow people’s brains out with no character change?”
The past few years have witnessed The Rock getting awfully cute and cuddly in his film roles. “The Tooth Fairy” was the most cuddly of all, but he tells reporters that was only for a season.
“It wasn’t necessarily important for me to go back and kick ass and do an R rated movie,” he explained. “It was just a matter of me getting good material that really resonated with me, something that I had been waiting for-for some time. I had enjoyed some of the work that I had been doing in the past for some time, whether it was Disney or some other studios, but my philosophy has always been pretty straight forward. If I see something I like and I can see its value to the audience, and its value to me then I give it a shot regardless of the genre. (‘Faster’) just happened to come along at a time when I was waiting for something like this. I’ve been waiting a long time. It’s something I can sink my teeth into. It came along and I read it, loved it and wanted to do it.”
The screenplay of “Faster” is streamlined in terms of a dialogue. There’s lots of kick-ass-edness going on. But the characters are still as three dimensional as possible.
“In terms of the characters, I think they’re kind of iconic characters and that’s why we named them as sort of action figure characters,” explained Tillman. “We didn’t want to give them a name. In the script I think it comes across better than it does on the screen. As you’re reading the dialogue one guy is called Driver, one’s called Cop, one’s called Killer. The goal was to set them up as these sort of archetypes then set them up as more original.”
In addition to lots of brute strength and ballistics, there are plenty of American muscle cars. The Rock says that was one of his favorite parts about the role.
“The stunt driving school was really necessary,” said Johnson. “I remember talking it over earlier with (director) George (Tillman) and it was very important to the film in terms of its authenticity. You can tie me in to all of these shots and not cut away to a stunt double. I loved the Chevelle. The Chevelle became like the character’s home. It was like his family.”
Besides all the cool guy stuff packed in the film, The Rock gets to brandish his classic stare on soon to be doomed villains. He does that so well he had to have practiced it. He’s got the best eyebrow lift since Mr. Spock of “Star Trek” fame.
“I practiced by watching a lot of Clint Eastwood movies,” explained Rock. “It was one of those welcome challenges to the movie. The script that these guys wrote had the challenge of telling a story without my character saying many words at all. I give a lot of credit to George, who was one of the most prepared directors I’ve ever been around.”
Stallone, Schwarzenegger and all of the other action heros that many of us grew up on have gotten old. So, who will save us from our cinematic doldrums? The Rock tells reporters that he is more than up for the task, given the right material.
“Absolutely,” he told reporters when asked. “For me, the action genre has always been my home. I’m a very physical guy. I love that and I enjoy it, but it was also very important for me to have a diverse career. I didn’t want to get pigeon-holed. I didn’t want to be defined as the action guy or the comedy guy or the family guy. I just wanted to give it my best shot and get really good at it over time.”
“I think actors are pigeon-holed sometimes and they’re portrayed that way by other people. We don’t think of each other that way,” added Billy Bob Thornton. “With Dwayne, I’d seen him do several movies already, and I was interested in him as a human being. We didn’t really know each other until shortly before the movie. We had mutual friends and we were always sending messages but I was aware of him as an actor. More importantly, you can kind of tell. That’s one of the reasons that I don’t audition people for movies when I’m directing. I’d rather sit and talk to them for a few minutes. If you look at him that way instead of saying ‘Oh, that’s the guy that played the ‘Scorpion King,’ but he was also the ‘Tooth Fairy,’ I don’t really think of it that way. I just think of that guy and whatever that specific vibe is.”
From the previews it’s easy for one to discern that “Faster” is a full-throttle, shoot ’em up cinematic offering. It’s almost a forgone conclusion that the violence contained therein is gratuitous, right?
“From a cinematic standpoint one of the things I talked about with Dwayne was really trying not to glamorize it,” said Tillman. “The sequence when he goes into the strip club and has the fight. That’s it, it’s over, he’s out of there. We tried to keep it in reality. Don’t try to do what most action movies do, extending the conflict. It gets to the point where ‘Is that real or is that not?’ As a director I was thinking I couldn’t go too far and go over board. I try to have this done as quick, fast as possible. But there’s always the beat of the Driver thinking ‘Why did I do that?’ That was already there with the script and I just took it from there and tried not to glamorize it.”
“Faster” is a good old fashioned action film that combines some elements of westerns and 70s style car chase films. It opens today November 24th in theaters nationwide.