I’ll admit upfront that Need for Speed isn’t a great movie yet in a Gone in Sixty Seconds (remake) kind of way, it’s moderately entertaining thanks to some nice car stunts and the two leads with Aaron Paul and Imogen Poots share some fun chemistry making one forget about a paper-thin script and plot.
Need for Speed
Genre(s): Action, Crime, Drama
DreamWorks | PG13 – 131 min. – $34.99 | August 5, 2014
THE MOVIE – 3.0/5
Thanks to the Fast and the Furious franchise and its phenomenal (and phenomena) box office performance, other studios clearly wanted to follow with DreamWorks releasing Need for Speed, based on the long-running and popular video game series. Although the box office wasn’t anything noteworthy (it did manage to get over $200M worldwide), this final product is one dumb flick but at the same time, once you get past the first 20-minutes or so, it’s a fun experience if not forgettable.
Tobey Marshall (AARON PAUL) is the hotshot racer whose father, a racing legend himself, recently passed away leaving Tobey with a car garage which is deep in debt and even $5,000 in winnings from a recent race can’t make up for it, thus Marshall must accept an offer from arch rival Dino Brewster (DOMINIC COOPER), and all around douche bag who is dating Marshall’s ex, Anita (DAKOTA JOHNSON who is set to star in Fifty Shades of Grey). The offer is to fix up a multi-million dollar car for which Marshall and his team – which also includes Benny (SCOTT MESCUDI aka Discount Tyrese), Finn (RAMI MALEK), Joe (RAMON RODRIGUEZ) and Pete (HARRISON GILBERTSON) who happens to be Anita’s little brother – will receive a sizeable chunk of, upwards of $500,000.
In a jiff, since thankfully the film doesn’t even bother with a montage, the car gets done though the buyer, represented by Julia Maddon (IMOGEN POOTS), is reluctant to pay the $3 million price tag but Marshall assures her the car can get to the stop speed of 230MPH, much to Brewster’s chagrin. But Marshall proves him wrong and gets the deal done, although Brewster is hardly happy about it especially when Pete decides to rub it in Brewster’s face that Marshall is a better racer.
To prove who the best racer is, Brewster challenges Marshall to a race with three illegally imported sports cars with the stake being if Marshall wins, he gets Brewster’s take of the deal but if Brewster wins, he takes Marshall’s share. The challenge is accepted and the two, along with Pete, race through the streets and highways when, as Brewster gives a love tap to the back of Pete’s car, it goes flying in the air, over a bridge and into the water, killing poor old Petey. Rather than going back, Brewster goes on while Marshall turns back. For his efforts, Marshall goes to prison and with no evidence that Brewster was ever there (not sure how any witnesses missed his car, but OK), he gets away scot-free.
Two years pass and Marshall is released from prison and obviously hell-bent on revenge. He sets his sights on a big-time underground racing event entitled the De Leon, a winner-take-all, set up by web radio show host DJ Monarch (MICHAEL KEATON). Marshall gets that $3M car on loan to race in the De Leon with Julia riding shotgun cross-country, from New York to California – with a pit stop in Detroit – along the way. Their journey finds them evading the police, as a way to get Monarch’s attention to get the much needed invite, and a bounty placed on his head by Brewster.
One of the more interesting aspects to Need for Speed was the fact there are indeed writers credited to the film: George Gatins (debut) and John Gatins (Hard Ball, Coach Carter, Real Steel) though not sure why either were necessary given it’s all plug-n-play with these characters and a thin plot. However, even with the nonsensical writing, I have to admit that after the first 20-minutes or so which didn’t give me much hope this would be a film that I’d get anything out of it, the stunt work and direction, by longtime stunt worker Scott Waugh (Act of Valor) are both well done.
Also of note, the cast actually isn’t bad. Sure, the supporting characters are pretty much throwaways and even Dominic Cooper, who has been great in Captain America 1, is completely wasted as the one-note jackass villain. However, Aaron Paul and Imogen Poots are both wonderful and as the movie advanced, I kind of enjoyed the chemistry these two shared with special recognition to Poots who, if not for her name, probably would be a bigger star. If for no other reason, beyond the cars, these two are at least enjoyable to watch.
Oh, and then there’s Michael Keaton who apparently needed a new car or mortgage payment. His entire appearance (which probably was filmed over the course of one day) is set in a circular room with a bay of monitors around and him making over-the-top remarks to the web cam before, by the end, even narrating the race providing updates on the drivers who crashed out and even providing some exposition to wrap up little story elements. So, yeah, Keaton is in this but it’s minimal at best, though at least it looks like he was having a good ‘ole time. I devoted this much time because I love Keaton but man was he a waste.
In the end, Need for Speed isn’t a great movie but it is passable entertainment with some good stunt work, well filmed and choreographed car races and the two leads are at least amiable and help one ignore the gigantic issues with the paper thin screenplay and forgettable side characters. Also, the finale is uber predictable which isn’t too surprising, but it is well filmed.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.5/5
Audio Commentary – Director Scott Waugh and Actor Aaron Paul sit down for a low-key but fun track where the two banter with one another while also offering up little tid-bits on the making of the movie, each giving their own perspectives.
Capturing Speed: Making an Authentic Car Movie (9:45; HD) is a behind-the-scenes look at the car racing scenes, building replica vehicles and how they pull off some of the more realistic stunts and includes interviews with the cast (including Aaron Paul) and crew (Scott Waugh and even Steven Spielberg).
Ties That Bind (12:04; HD) introduces audiences to the stunt team, and family ties, and how they put together some of the races and incredible stunts.
The Circus is in Town (10:50; HD) – Director Waugh takes audiences to experience the traveling road show, filming from one end of the country to the other.
Monarch & Maverick Outtakes (1:43; HD) is more or less a line-o-rama like feature with adlibs from Keaton and Mescudi.
Deleted Scenes (5:09; HD) includes four scenes either cut or trimmed from the movie and also has intros by Waugh explaining why they were removed.
The Sound of Need for Speed (9:25; HD) examines the sound design for the movie, particularly the car engines as well as the score.
Need for Speed: Rivals Trailer (1:25; HD)
Digital Copy – There is a redemption code good with iTunes.
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Need for Speed races onto Blu-ray presented in its original 2.39 widescreen aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer. The detail levels are sharp while colors are bright and cheerful from natural skin tones to the colors across the spectrum on the cars. The film does have a fair amount of orange tint for one sequence which shows off quite well even if it’s an odd choice and an annoying one for those against the teal and orange craze.
AUDIO – 5.0/5
The movie comes with a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track which helps shows off the numerous action/racing scenes giving the soundtrack some nice depth through each channel while even dialogue levels come across crisp and clear. The music and score also makes fine use of the front and rear channels giving this near reference quality material.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, I’ll admit upfront that Need for Speed isn’t a great movie yet in a Gone in Sixty Seconds (remake) kind of way, it’s moderately entertaining thanks to some nice car stunts and the two leads with Aaron Paul and Imogen Poots share some fun chemistry making one forget about a paper-thin script and plot. However, this isn’t something I’ll probably revisit and at best this is only worth a rental, nothing more.