REVIEW: Need For Speed
Written by Steven Panzarella (@ProCreateSteve)
The Short- Need For Speed relies on plot devices and gets off to an awfully slow start, but it still manages to be surprisingly good fun in a genre that The Fast and The Furious series has beaten to death. All the troubles with its first half are made up for with a thoroughly exciting second half of non-CGI racing, led in large part by the cars themselves which should be considered the stars of the show.
The Long- For years and years The Fast and the Furious series has dominated the action car genre, with flashy CGI and implausible but entertaining action sequences. It has become one of the most successful action film franchises in history. It’s no surprise that EA Games' popular video game series Need For Speed finally found a way to make it to the big screen. Need For Speed is the story of Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul), a racing enthusiast who takes over his father’s garage following his passing. Marshall and his group of friends have made themselves a mainstay in the small racing scene of Mount Kisco, NY but yearn for more money and more chances to show off their talents as the premier auto shop in the area. Marshall’s rival, Dino (Dominic Cooper), asks Tobey and friends if they can help him sell the final pet project of car innovator, Carroll Shelby, the proceeds would go to helping Tobey pay off the loans on his father’s garage so of course no matter how much they hate Dino they take it. Following the successful sale of the car, Tobey and his best friend, Little Pete (Dino’s wife’s brother), challenge Dino to a race, during which Dino forces Pete off the road and into a terrifying accident that kills Pete and forces Dino to frame Tobey for the accident. Tobey Spends 2 years in jail and returns just in time to seek revenge on Dino.
The first half of Need For Speed is boring, slow, and poorly scripted. It struggles to tell a concise story and set up our characters for the second half of the film. The second half of the movie is much better, while the script only allows so much from the boisterous Aaron Paul who plays a quieter more reserved character in this film than Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad. In fact if you are hoping for any sign of Pinkman in Tobey Marshall you are looking in the wrong place. Paul does the lead role justice even with a script that struggles to move beyond clichés and let Paul loose on the role instead of having him growl softly like Christian Bale in The Dark Knight. As far as supporting casts go, Need For Speed may not have the greatest but Imogen Poots, Rami Malek, and Scott Mescudi (Rapper Kid Cudi) among others provide some quality work (especially Mescudi who is actually on occasion very funny). Poots (That Awkward Moment) as the main love interest in the movie is a nice addition and while her story may not be fully developed (why on earth would she get in a car with an ex-convict jumping parole after only meeting him twice!?) Poots and Paul share nice chemistry. My favorite member of the supporting cast goes to Michael Keaton who plays race blogger and Organizer of the critical “Deleon” race during the film’s final act only known as “The Monarch”, Keaton spends the whole movie chewing up the scenery in a memorable role.
Along with Paul who plays our hero, his counterpart Dino Brewster is played by Dominic Cooper (The Devils Double, Captain America). Cooper takes a while to come into full form as the villain but I blame that more on the storytelling than the actor himself. Brewster is an unlikable dirt bag but we really don’t understand why until much later in the film, the rivalry between Marshall and Brewster is only discussed in the context that Brewster made it big and stole Tobey Marshall’s girlfriend played by Dakota Johnson (50 Shades of Grey, Fox’s short lived Ben and Kate). Need for Speed took a 180 for me half way through the film, as the cross country trip begins we start to see a more colorful Tobey and it allows everyone to loosen up a bit. Where this movie goes from an ok flick to a memorable car movie is with the non-CGI racing sequences. Need for Speed is packed with beautiful and very real cars like the Bugatti Veyron, and the rare Koenigsegg: One, among others, and as the final race begins they allow you to take in the utter beauty and ability of each car. Director Scott Waugh also allows time for cringing as you see almost every car go through considerable damage, or put others in harm’s way due to the cars' power. Like The Fast and the Furious series, the damage these guys cause to innocents and police officers is scary and I can imagine that had this happened in reality many would have died during each and every race sequence. I had no issue with the sublime realism of Need For Speed and took no issue with just how impossible some of the things that occurred would have been (It’s a movie). Thanks to fine cinematography and crafty direction from Scott Waugh the first half of Need For Speed may leave you with a want for more, the second half is an adrenaline rush worth the price of admission.
If you rate this against any movie in The Fast series I’d say in many ways this film stacks up to it, thanks to more realistic special effects and a cast filled with better actors/actresses. The fact that this movie is 2 hours and 4 minutes long and takes nearly a full hour to get its engine revving in full may not leave it with high marks from most critics but action junkies looking for a fix will be pleased once the credits roll.