After all the baby-sitting he's been doing in movies such as "Tooth Fairy" and " Race to Witch Mountain," it's a twisted relief to see Dwayne Johnson shoot a telemarketer early on in the new revenge picture "Faster" before we've even gotten to know who's who and what this telemarketer ever did to deserve such nasty customer interaction.
This is an overpacked suitcase disguised as a movie, which is appropriate, since Johnson is a bulging array of musculature disguised as an ordinary human. He's good company, though. The movie itself offers a few stray diversions, even if it plays like three TV crime- drama pilots scheduled in the same time slot.
The ex-con played by Johnson did 10 years for his role in a bank robbery that turned very bloody. His role was that of getaway driver. He is labeled, on-screen, only as Driver. A blase assassin ( Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is identified on-screen as Killer. Billy Bob Thornton, skeezed-up, plays a Bakersfield police detective with a heroin problem. He's known only as Cop. Carla Gugino, his partner, for some reason has a real name, though consistency would dictate she be labeled Better-Looking Cop.
The script by Tony Gayton and Joe Gayton isn't really a vehicle for Johnson; it's more of a three-headed narrative that keeps knocking heads. Once Driver gets out of prison, he begins running down his little death-list of people who would deserve to die even if they hadn't killed his beloved half brother. The wrinkle in "Faster" is that it presents a host of domestic and parental challenges for most of the characters. Shootouts imperil preteenagers who just happen to be in the wrong place; Cop finds his investigation of the serial-killing Driver conflicting with his commitments, met with only partial success, to his Little League-playing son.
Director George Tillman Jr. manages to get a decent time-waster out of "Faster." But the most vivid and expressive supporting player is not human but a black Chevy Chevelle, which Driver handles like a pro. The movie exists for its squealing-tire spins and high-speed-in-reverse moves. But just as "Unstoppable" reminds us of the simple satisfactions delivered by a slab of rolling metal, out of control, the comparatively bland "Faster" reinforces how much joyful noise the right car can make when driven by the right Driver and amped-up by a Chevelle-loving sound designer.