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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Faster

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service

When a vintage Chevrolet Chevelle steals scene after scene from the star of the picture, it doesn't take a cinematic connoisseur to sense there's trouble. In fact, in about the time required for that classic vehicle to go from 0 to 60, audiences are likely to realize that what's on the screen in "Faster" (CBS)—a revenge flick tailored for Dwayne Johnson—just isn't entertaining.

As for viewers of faith, they'll probably feel their hackles rising at this vendetta-fueled, mayhem-laden rampage even...well, faster.

Director George Tillman Jr. and screenwriters Tony and Joe Gayton assemble a series of foul cliches and then just let the actors rip. Johnson is the monosyllabic Driver because, you see, that's what he was, the driver for his brother's gang of armed robbers. Driver is just out of prison after serving 10 brutal years, and he's out to avenge his brother's murder by rival criminals.

Wouldn't you know it, he has a list of their names and addresses, and an impeccably polished black-and-white Chevelle (ah, children, now there was a muscle car!) that never seems to need gassing up before it's expertly performing stunts on barren roads and transporting him hither and yon as he shoots a succession of people in the head.

In a particularly gory sequence, Driver stabs one of his victims, and then shoots him later as he's recovering in the hospital.

Preacher (Buzz Belmondo), another of Driver's targets, has made a career change and is now a sincere tent evangelist. But this subplot quickly degenerates into racism-tinged buffoonery.

Trailing Driver are scrofulous drug-addicted detective Billy Bob Thornton (named Cop) and suave British assassin Oliver Jackson-Cohen (called—can you guess?—Killer). Just to make the story more...um ...interesting, Driver, we learn, has a steel plate in the back of his head as the result of an earlier shooting.

Raising the "ick" factor ever higher, the film places young children nearby for many of its violent doings.

The film contains multiple scenes of murderous revenge, slow-motion gun and knife violence, drug use and some profane and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.




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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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