Try not to think of Need For Speed as a Fast And Furious knockoff. Sure it’s got all the necessary components of a Fast and Furious film: hot cars, big action stunts, a relatively good looking cast, but Need For Speed manages to cross the finish line on the skin of its teeth.
So drawing on familiar themes seen in films like Smoky and the Bandit, The French Connection, and other classic films that use high speed chase scenes without the benefits of a green screen, Need For Speed actually thrives on its stunts, but a half descent plot with a cast looking like they are uninterested in where they are going bring the film down. Hit the jump for the full review.
Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is one of the best little known race car drivers in the country. Chosing to live the quiet life of being a mechanic of his father’s old shop unlike his rival Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), Tobey is struggling to keep his shop afloat. He accepts to get in bed with the enemy by tuning up a rare car, which was to be dealt to some rich snob. After successfully building the car and impressing the rich snob he accepts a challenge to Dino using one of three rare sports cars. However, Dino inadvertently kills Pete (Harrison Bilbertson), one of Tobey’s best friends and fellow mechanic, and frames Tobey for the murder. After spending seven years in jail, Tobey seeks justice, and rallies his fellow mechanics (Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez) and a savvy exotic car dealer Julia (Imogen Poots) to help him win the De Leon, a high end car race that is by invite only, and clear his name.
Need For Speed doesn’t exactly have the strongest script in the history of the racing car genre. The tale of redemption, righting a wrong, the double cross, the lost lover, and revenge, Need For Speed’s story doesn’t exactly rev up on originality cylinders. The fact that the film is based on a game, which has sold over 140 million, isn’t known to have a plot was a huge opportunity to open the door for stronger video game adaptations, but George Gatins‘ script doesn’t leave much wiggle room for the characters. Being restrained to the confines of such a weak script, these characters are reduced to generic motivations. Poots is much better than this. Even if she is playing a strong, sexy, and saavy female, Julia doesn’t really do much for the film other than be a female presence. Of course Cooper’s Dino didn’t really do much for the film either considering he played a by-the-book kind of villain who is really one giant d-bag.
Mescudi, Rodriguez, and Malek are all reduced to being faceless comedians providing some of the weakest banter ever seen in a film. Mescudi does most of the silly work single handedly, with Rodriguez and Malek working in unison, but not to much avail. Even Michael Keaton playing a pirate radio dj who holds the annual De Leon race looks like he is bored and hams his performance in.
The film was meant to be lighter fare for Aaron Paul, who had worked on the dark comedy turned gravely dark drama Breaking Bad for the past few years. It’s not that he could have chosen better if he wanted to go do something lighter. In fact Need For Speed is as light as they come, it’s just that it is light in all the wrong places.
However, Need For Speed puts the pedal the to metal when it comes to the stunt work. Nearly all the stunts, with the exception of the close up shots of the driver’s seat, was all done without any green screen. These stunts are fast-paced and adrenaline pumping and in your face, so be prepared for an intense and wild ride. It should be noted that I did not see this film in 3D, so the jarring effects weren’t felt. However seeing how many hairpin turns and twists are in the movie, it may be of some benefit to you not to see the movie in 3D.
Let’s face it, Need For Speed is all about the cars, and nothing else, because there is nothing else to look forward to in this movie. It’s not as though you want to see an actual plot develop or see these characters make it out alive. In fact, Need For Speed would have been better with a limited amount of dialogue and more focus on the cars themselves. Heck even a supercut of the car chases and stunts would have made Need for Speed more fun to watch. Just think of it as an opportune time to take a pee break during the dialogue.