Need For Speed Review
A MINDLESS AND JOYLESS JOYRIDE
Any average person who has deep rooted ties into the world of video games has played at least one (Or simply know of) of the bolstering library of the Need for Speed franchise. With about twenty games that carry the brand name, players have raced cars through virtual cities with full throttle speeds and causing chaotic wreckage for shear unadulterated joy; insuring bountiful high octane thrills. Now Dreamworks Entertainment takes the lucrative racing game franchise to the big screen with the movie titled Need for Speed. Does this film adaptation of the popular video game finish strong or does it race too hard for the average moviegoer?
After dealing with a death in the family, Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is desperately trying to keep his garage doors to his body shop opening. But without steady flow of cash to hold off the bank loans, Tobey and his friends, who work alongside him, might have to close up shop. With a last ditch effort, Tobey makes a deal with the once local townie now big time swinger Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) to fix up a famous race car and share in a third of the profits when car is sold. Unfortunately, Dino, who has a history with Tobey from long ago, gets the best of Tobey and frames him for murder and lands him in jail. Two years later, Tobey gets out of jail and with vengeance on his mind. With the help of an automobile analyst Julia (Imogen Poots) and his ragtag mechanic friends, Tobey hatches a plan to partake in a high profile and illegal race called De Leon Race, created by Monarch (Michael Keaton), to exact his revenge on Dino, who is participating in the race.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Being based off a racing game, it’s clearly from the get go that film Need for Speed has to be a visual representation of its source material (I.e. sleek fast cars and accelerated thrills). With the success of the box office juggernaut in the Fast and the Furious franchise, which holds the top ranking spot for movies of fast cars and piston pumping adrenaline, Need for Speed seems also eager to cash in big on its skirt tails in an attempt to create a rival franchise from another studio. The result isn’t quite that dramatic or celebrated in its intended goal as the film is a blaring, bombastic feature, as it should be, but ultimately delivers an uninspiring dull coating of a movie rather than a movie with a glistening polish finish.
Scott Waugh, director of the fictional military film Act of Valor, helms this racing project and while his automotive heart may be in making this movie, his directorial soul is not. Need for Speed is riddled with problems; some that can be forgiven, but not all. First, and foremost, the film’s running time, which is roughly about over 2 hours long, is stretched to the max of being both tedious and strenuous. Viewers are forced to sit through a bloated feature of chaotic driving scenes and Tobey’s misadventures of narrow escapes across country as he inches ever closer to the big De Leon race, which in truth is not that all impressive for being the ultra be-all-end-all race of underworld racing. Truthfully, the film could have been easily reduced significantly, shaving off a good twenty minutes from the film’s final cut, and possibly could’ve achieved a slightly better narrative pacing (and a better rating from me and other reviewers like me). Just like in Act of Valor, which gave viewers plenty of POV’s shots of soldiers fighting, Waugh demonstrates that same tactic, but from behind the wheel of a drag racing car. It’s a nice feature, one that the Fast and the Furious movies didn’t use, as Need for Speed showcases these scenes with perfect timing to keep tension and adrenaline level high. The same can be said with the actual racing of the cars.
All the racing cars that are featured in the movie are those classy showroom automotives that will have most fast car junkies drooling over with glee as their power performances on the street level, which are executed and choreographed beautifully. However, while the Fast and the Furious entries are great with fanciful scenes of extreme racing, Need for Speed subjects viewers to racing scenes that come off as dangerous and slightly horrifying to watch. Almost all the main characters in the movie carelessly drive, though choreographed in style, through the streets filled with pedestrians, cyclist, and other vehicles. While this may be the harkening to the spirit of the video game, the jarring and guttural feeling you get in your stomach by watching these scenes have the opposite effect of what Waugh wanted to achieve.
Need for Speed’s character, whether by miscasting its actors or from its screenplay, are mixture of performances ranging from mediocre to deplorable. Aaron Paul, who’s well known for playing Jesse on the hit T.V. show Breaking Bad, does his best in playing and selling the strong, silent type character in Tobey Marshall (which I think he does an good job). Michael Keaton’s Monarch, the illusive Wolfman-Jack-esque radio broadcaster and game maker of De Leon race, seems to be having the most fun of the entire cast. His character’s is likeable and chews through his dialogue with great ease, even if it’s slightly over the top to beginning with.
Besides those two actors, the rest of the cast is beneath them. Tobey’s motley crews of mechanics are clearly used as comic relief for the film, but are woefully not funny at all. Scott Mescudi’s Benny, Tobey’s aerial eye in the sky, tries his hardest amongst this group to be the funniest, but fails to execute a sucker punch of comedy in his character as it just becomes stupid and annoying. Only Rami Malek’s character Finn produces something funny in a scene where strips down naked and hands in his resignation to his meanly desk job. Dominic Cooper’s Dino is a one-dimensional, smarmy villain that we all have seeing before. Imogen Poots’s Julia Maddon, Tobey’s passenger companion for most of the movie, is pretty to look at, but comes across as just eye-candy for film that is dominated by male actors. And Dakota Johnson’s Anita, Tobey’s ex-girlfriend that got away, is forgettable with limited screen for viewers to even care about her (perhaps filming scenes for Fifty Shades of Grey).
It’s hard to look at the Need for Speed film as its own entity rather than what it is more of less; a poor man’s attempt of making an unmistakably illusion of a Fast and the Furious movie. The film might feed the hunger for some adrenaline junkies out there until Fast and the Furious 7 comes out next year, but honestly, watching a previous entry in the Fast and the Furious series would probably suffice (and probably entertain more) to soothe your testosterone appetite. In truth, Need for Speed is a mindless movie, which there is nothing wrong with, but the film lacks that surreal fun that usually accompanies these typed of popcorn flicks. Coupled with bad writing, unlikeable characters, dangerous driving, and a lengthy running time, Need for Speed fails to deliver a sense of escapism in a movie and makes you want to observe the “Rules of the Road” rather than mimicking a drag racing fantasy.