Powell's Blog: Reviews of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's "Faster" film, and Steve Austin role in "The Expendables"

Posted in: Powell's Blog, MUST-READ LISTING
Nov 29, 2010 - 03:22 PM

By Jason Powell

Monday, November 29 – 3:22 P.M. (CT)

I'm way behind on my pro wrestling television show viewing due to holiday weekend plans, but I did catch a pair of movies that featured pro wrestlers. I never made it to the theater to check out "The Expendables" on the big screen, but I watched the movie on DVD last week.

The gimmick was obvious. Cram as many action stars in one movie, feature as many gun fights and explosions as possible, and hope that no one noticed the plot was as lousy as Sylvester Stallone is old. Of course, I figured that out just by watching the onslaught of trailers before the theatrical run, so I can't say I was too let down by the actual movie. The first 30-45 minutes was fun, but it was downhill from there.

Fortunately, Steve Austin was cast well in the role as the lead henchmen for lead villain Eric Roberts's crew. Austin didn't do a lot of talking, but he didn't seem out of place when he did unlike Randy Couture, who it appeared given a role just because they wanted to squeeze in as many recognizable names as possible. If you understand what you're getting with "The Expendables" and don't expect anything more, then it's a fun DVD rental.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson smoothly stated recently that he might have some interest in appearing in the sequel, but added that it depends on the material. Good call. If the script for the sequel is as hokey as the first flick (and I'm sure it will be given that Stallone plans to write it), then I don't think we'll see Johnson play a substantial role in the followup.

Perhaps Johnson will make a cameo like Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger did in the first flick, but Johnson should be above playing second fiddle to the ancient Stallone at this point in their respective careers. Hey, I love some of Stallone's movies as much as the next guy, but it's getting hard to take a 64 year-old action star seriously regardless of how much HGH he pumps into his body.

The numbers for Johnson's "Faster" weren't all that impressive this weekend, so maybe the idea of attaching himself to a project that is likely to do well at the box office won't seem like such a bad idea once Stallone finishes writing the sequel.

I caught "Faster" on opening night and was surprised to see only 20 people in the entire theater given that the multiplex parking lot was packed with people who braved cold weather and bad roads to enjoy a flick the night before Thanksgiving. For what it's worth, the people in the theater didn't fit into one particular demographic, so I guess it has that going for it if nothing else.

Johnson's character is hellbent on avenging the death of his brother, and let's just say he violates the terms of his parole within minutes of being released from prison. This role actually would have been ideal for WWE star Randy Orton, as Johnson didn't have much dialogue and was instead called upon to act like a badass while using facial expressions to tell the story.

Johnson did a good job with the material he was given, and the cast includes Billy Bob Thornton (who was oddly omitted from the trailers I've seen), Tom Berenger, Mike Epps, Maggie Grace, and Grace's fellow "Lost" alumnus Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje (a/k/a Mr. Eko).

The name of the movie did it a disservice. It just wasn't a slick or fast-paced as the title will lead many viewers to believe. Rather, it's a throwback to '70s revenge movies with a cool car, lots of bullets, and a gritty all around feel.

I definitely enjoyed "Faster" in the theater more than "The Expendables" on DVD, yet I still left the theater feeling somewhat disappointed. I had high hopes for Johnson's return to the action genre, and while it was a solid movie, there was nothing particularly special about it, and I saw a couple of the twists coming a mile away. Overall, the movie basically killed some time and while I didn't regret seeing it in the theater, it just didn't stick with me in any meaningful way.

Major "Faster" Spoiler Warning

My goal when discussing movies in the theaters is to avoid major spoilers, but I feel compelled to complain about a major scene late in the movie that left me with a horrible taste in my mouth. We learn during the movie that Johnson's character took a bullet to the back of the head and lived to tell about it. I was able to suspend my disbelief for that scene, but the final scenes of the movie made doing so again impossible task when he took a second shot to the back of the head from close range.

They made a point of telling us earlier in the movie that Johnson's skull was held together by a steel plate. I admit that the possibility of Johnson taking another shot to the plate and surviving popped into my head for a minute, yet I dismissed the notion because I figured the writer had to know that would be too farfetched.

Thus, you can imagine my frustration when Johnson's character took another bullet to the back of the head and the explanation was that the steel plate saved him. Maybe this will work for some movie goers who recall a scene where a henchman backs down from Johnson upon reading a tattoo on his arm that tells his life story.

Before running away in fear, the henchman said he knew of Johnson's character because he is known as a ghost because he survived the first shot. I just couldn't buy it, and that second shot to the head scene left me extremely frustrated by an otherwise solid movie.

Perhaps I would have enjoyed "Faster" more had I not watched the far superior revenge movie "Machete" when it opened back in September. It's hard not to compare the two movies, and whereas "Machete" had a lot of fun with its revenge tale, "Faster" took itself seriously, which I was fine with until it went too far over the top with that steel plate silliness.

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