Starring: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnston, Billy Bob Thornton, Carla Gugino and Oliver Jackson-Cohen.
Directed by George Tillman Jr
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnston plays “Driver”, a man who gets out of prison after a long stretch, intent on avenging his brother’s death at the hand of a ruthless gang. What this amounts to is the monolith confronting these criminals one-by-one in an episodic story of revenge.
This should have been a fun little action movie, and there are moments of greatness (one potential execution of a holy man, one terrific car chase), but it’s too daft and humourless to really deliver. The tone and pace never quite kick into gear, as the serious, sometimes pretentious tone, jars with the film’s stubborn, relentless silliness.
Even for a piece of pulp starring a former wrestler, this is beyond ridiculous. Let me count the ways…when Driver confronts the evil gang they include a nerdy telemarketer, a strip club bouncer, a doddery sexual predator and a preacher. Eh, how did all these people meet, let alone form a gang? At one stage, Driver’s enemies hire an assassin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, bearing a distracting resemblance to Ronan O’Gara) and get this – he’s a self-made IT multi-millionaire who moonlights as a killer for hire!
The whole endeavour is told in a fitful pace without a glimmer of humour or self-awareness. Not only do the filmmakers seem oblivious the how cartoony some characters are, but they also don’t seem to realise who predictable the final ‘twist’ is.
This is all a shame: Billy Bob Thornton and Carla Gugino (as the cops investigating the killings) are a pleasure to watch, and Johnston has screen presence to burn. But Mr Johnston has yet to find the true-star-making turn that other action stars have (Willis in Die Hard, Schwarzenegger in Terminator and Stallone in Rambo). After a few bum notes – not least Tooth Fairy – it looked like he’d found a perfect role to break him out of B-list ghetto. Maybe next time.