Two Thrillers from Alliance
Faster (November 27/10)
Directed by George Tillman Jr, Faster follows a nameless ex-con (Dwayne Johnson) as he sets out to avenge the death of his brother - with his efforts complicated by the presence of both a dogged detective (Billy Bob Thornton) and a slick assassin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). It's a high-octane premise that's employed to curiously underwhelming (and underplayed) effect, as Tillman Jr has infused the proceedings with a languid sensibility that's compounded by an ongoing emphasis on less-than-enthralling subplots - with the decision to devote a third of the narrative to Jackson-Cohen's exploits nothing short of baffling (ie despite an impressive amount of backstory, the character never becomes interesting or compelling enough to warrant this much screen time). Tillman Jr's refusal to embrace the narrative's inherently fun, B-movie-type atmosphere ensures that Faster is rarely as exciting as one might've anticipated, although, to be fair, the film does boast a handful of admittedly electrifying interludes and sequences (ie Johnson's character confronts one of the individuals on his list, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, but finds himself unable to take immediate action after discovering that the man has completely turned his life around). The final result is a watchable yet unsatisfying thriller that begins to evaporate from one's memory minutes after it ends, which is a shame, really, given the infrequency of Johnson's excursions outside of the family-friendly realm.
A gritty, uncompromising thriller, The Horseman follows Peter Marshall's Christian as he embarks on a journey of revenge and violence after his daughter dies of a drug overdose - with his only companion on the trek a teenage hitchhiker (Caroline Marohasy's Alice) who is completely unaware of her traveling companion's extracurricular activities. Filmmaker Steven Kastrissios establishes an atmosphere of palpable grittiness right from the get-go, as the movie opens with a tense, thoroughly brutal sequence in which Christian uses torture to extract information from an unwilling suspect. It's an impressively disturbing interlude that effectively sets the stage for a suspenseful thriller that rarely pulls punches, with Marshall's surprisingly sympathetic performance ultimately anchoring the proceedings and ensuring that Christian remains likeable in spite of his less-than-likeable actions. It's rather unfortunate, then, that The Horseman suffers from a demonstrable drop in quality as it progresses, with the inclusion of a laughable twist just past the one-hour mark essentially destroying the film's taut atmosphere in one fell swoop (ie it's a perfect example of the sort of predictable and lazy horror-movie plotting that Kastrissios otherwise eschews). The subsequent lack of tension is exacerbated by a rather conventional third act that contains at least one sequence that doesn't make a lick of sense, timewise (ie how did those characters manage to do what they did to another character in the time that Christian was offscreen?), which, when coupled with a decidedly unsatisfying conclusion, cements The Horseman's place as about half of a tight little thriller. (It's a shame about the other half, though.)