The plot of Faster couldn’t be simpler: Man gets out of jail after ten years and immediately embarks on a five-day murder spree, avenging his brother’s death.

It’s tough, it’s brutal, and it’s bloody.

It also tries way too hard, is riddled with clichés, and just might make you long for the ‘old’ Dwayne Johnson.

Long long ago, he was The Rock– a force to be reckoned with, a no-nonsense tough guy who dominated the WWF (back when it was the WWF). Then he broke into movies as the rough-and-tough Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns. A few years later, he turned a lot of heads when he decided to show his soft and cuddly side in (completely watchable) kids’ flicks like The Game Plan, Race to Witch Mountain, and Tooth Fairy, dropping his WWF/E moniker and reverting back to just Dwayne Johnson.

Now, he’s turning heads again (dizzy yet?) with his toughest, most brutal role ever. Yes, Johnson is tailor-made for parts like this, but he can do a lot better than Faster. (See his brief but excellent performance in August’s The Other Guys).

In Faster, Johnson’s plays a man known only as Driver (we know this because the word ‘Driver’ whams onto the screen in big letters). He’s fresh out of jail and running to a nearby junkyard, where he hops in a waiting 70s Chevrolet Chevelle SS and burns rubber to the nearest town. He then walks in to a cubicled office and blows a guys head off.

A junkie cop (we know this because the word ‘Cop’ whams onto the screen in big letters) played by Billy Bob Thornton arrives on the scene, much to the dismay of a fellow cop (we’re forced to deduce this on our own, since she doesn’t rate high enough to get a big on-screen letters) played by Carla Gugino.

Miles away, a contract killer (we know this because the word ‘Killer’ whams onto the screen in big letters) gets a call. He’s being hired to ‘dispose of’ Driver.

And thus, the cat and mouse (and other mouse) game begins. Unfortunately, so much of the game is so utterly ludicrous you may find yourself wishing you could leave the theater… faster.

The screenplay by brothers Tony (Murder By Numbers) and Joe (Bulletproof) Gayton is chock-full of every action movie cliché you could think of– point-blank shootouts where no one gets so much as a scratch, the cop ten days from retirement, the hitman who tells his woman that he’s getting out of the business for good, as soon as he’s done with this one last case…

Director George Tillman, Jr. (Notorious) tries to make Faster rise above the mess with some fancy camera work and a bit of an artistic flair, but it ends up looking more like a dysfunctional cross between Michael Bay and Quentin Tarantino.

But wait, there’s more.

Driver, it seems can’t drive anywhere without squealing his tires first. Killer, of course, has an almost effeminate British accent, is perfectly groomed, and has a garage full of Lamborghinis. And then there’s Maggie Grace (TV’s Lost), who plays Killer’s lady friend. When she’s not strutting around in lingerie, she’s taking target practice in the desert while wearing her wedding dress.

Really, I can’t make this stuff up.

The biggest disappointment, though, is Johnson himelf, who, for some reason, decided to start the ‘serious’ phase of his career with this drivel. Alas, he’s relegated to being one of the least likeable ‘heroes’ in recent memory. Yes, we’re made to feel some sympathy for him (he’s only trying to avenge his brother’s death, after all), but the backstory takes so damn long to unfold that by the time we finally learn it, he’s already brutally killed three people– only to discover it wasn’t really their fault, since a much worse bad guy was behind it the whole time.

So who are we supposed to feel sorry for?

Each other, that’s who– for sitting through it.

1/5 stars