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Need for Speed – Movie Review

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Need for Speed – Movie Review

Rating: C (Average)

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A disclaimer appears at the end of Need for Speed, detailing that the driving in the film was done by trained professionals and should not be attempted. In addition to being an important notice to place at the end of a street-racing movie, it also emphasizes how much the entire picture feels like a car commercial. When Aaron Paul’s character races through the desert and city streets in a Ford Mustang, one expects a voice-over to suddenly appear boasting of its capabilities. Unfortunately, much like advertising, there is a lack of any real character development as the impressive stunt racing gets in the way of an interesting story.

Director Scott Waugh is a former stuntman and as such, most of the attention in Need for Speed is focused on that department. The stunt driving is spectacular and unlike last year’s disastrous street-racing movie Getaway, the editing doesn’t become frantic and the cameras don’t resort to annoying close-ups and shaky cam. As the cars take fast U-turns, make jumps and manage to take one hit after another, it’s hard not to admire the stunt drivers’ skill. The sound crew also deserves plenty of credit for putting the audience right in the exhaust pipe as they skid through the streets and runways. One exciting chase through the desert even throws in SUVs and massive trucks to combat the Mustang, for good measure. The climax is appropriately thrilling as cars are totaled and destroyed as the hero tries to race his way towards the finish line. Watching the impressive racing abilities of the drivers is even enough to distract one from the sheer incompetence of the policemen chasing after the characters.

Like the video game that inspired it, Need for Speed is so thin in story and character, that the wait begins for when the non-racing scenes end and the controller is handed back to the drivers. One almost expects a “skip” button to appear at certain moments. That’s hardly the fault of Aaron Paul, who gives a likeable and charming performance as runaway hero Tobey Marshall. After years of playing second banana to Bryan Cranston’s meth dealer in Breaking Bad, he gets the chance to lead his own project and he does a nice job. He’s rootable and I wanted him to succeed in his quest to avenge his brother and stop the villain. Dominic Cooper, on the other hand, seems to be one step away from twirling a moustache and cackling manically. It’s surprising there wasn’t a scene of him burning down an puppy pound, just to emphasize how despicable he is. His motives and grudge towards Tobey aren’t explored very well and it’s hard to take him seriously. Imogen Poots fills in the role of the expected love interest who happens to be a car expert, but spends most of her screen time screaming as Tobey races through the cities. The comic relief in Need for Speed is particularly misplaced as the jokes feel forced and Michael Keaton’s Greek chorus role seems especially wasteful of his talent. When characters aren’t breaking the speed limit, they merely serve as roadblocks nudged in between the fun bits.

At times, Need for Speed can occasionally get too ridiculous for its own good. A scene in which Paul’s Ford Mustang is being refilled while driving at top speed down a highway, while Poots is hanging on the side just makes one think “Yeah, sure.” The possibilities are endless for fast-paced car chases, but even Scott Waugh seems to bite off more than he can chew. The attempts at emotion don’t entirely work, either. The chemistry between Tobey and Julia is almost non-existent and while Aaron Paul more than plays his role in portraying the sadness his character goes through over his brother’s death, it doesn’t quite resonate with the viewer in the same manner. The reason the climax has such a thrill and excitement is because of the immense likeability Paul brings to Tobey. That he was able to contribute some semblance of life to a one-dimensional character shows that Aaron Paul is an actor with a bright future ahead of him, if his Breaking Bad success wasn’t enough of an indication.

Fans of the Need for Speed video game will probably find some enjoyment out of the film adaptation, but some character development is lacking in between the zooming of the cars. The movie portrays Ford Mustangs as these beautiful creations of speed, but any normal person driving in the same manner as Aaron Paul will get a large fine and into a major accident very quickly, much like how car commercials seem to glamorize such activities. In the end, this is meant to advertise what is a fairly harmless game and as such, it’s expected that any real story or character drama is thrown out of the window. As for myself, I will probably stick with movies about Formula 1 rivalries and video games with fat plumbers racing go-karts.

Review By: Stefan Ellison


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