Movie Review: “Need for Speed”

   Need for Speed is a 2014 American action film directed by Scott Waugh, written by George Gatins and John Gatins and produced by DreamWorks Pictures. Waugh is also known for directing Act of Valor, which is shown on a rack in a gas-station about midway through the movie. An adaptation of the popular Need for Speed video-game franchise, the film’s storyline borrows elements from Need for Speed: The Run, Hot Pursuit, and Rivals, respectively. It stars Aaron Paul in the lead-role with a supporting cast of Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Scott Mescudi, Michael Keaton and several others.

    I wanted to see this film even when it was first showing in theaters. While I describe myself as something of an avid-gamer, I have never been much into racing, henceforth; I have never played anything to do with Need for Speed. I was interested in seeing it for a lot of the same reason others were interested. Aaron Paul forever one my interest after Breaking Bad, and I wanted to see more of what the actor had to offer. I didn’t end up watching it though, as none of my friends had seen Breaking Bad at that time, and judging by the trailers, it admittedly didn’t look like anything we’d be interested in.

    The film was a financial successfully making $203 million off a $66 million production budget.  The reviews were less than friendly, and so, it was looking like I might have dodged a bullet by not paying the eight buck for a ticket. That didn’t stop me from renting it, however.

   Need for Speed follows the story of a former racer named Tobey Marshall that runs a shop for tuning and enhancing performance cars. Money is tight though, and to rectify this, they participate in street races. Everything changes when Tobey’s old rival, Dino Brewster walks into their shop and offers to let them have 25% of his profit for a rare Mustang if they fix it up. Initially hesitant, Tobey agrees, and that is that. From this point, a sequence of events lead to Tobey finding his way behind bars for a two-year sentence, and setting the frameworks for the rest of the film. Above all else, Need for Speed is about a racer attempting to extract revenge on the other.

    I feel like the first thing that I should acknowledge is the acting and the characters found in the film. Aaron Paul is definitely the most, ahem, driven character in the film. For a lot of reasons, his character adds the determination and seriousness to keep everything intact. There is a simmering anger in the role that really builds the conflict that other-wise wasn’t built well. The rest of the cast varies from okay to bad, and there really isn’t much wiggle room. Dominic Cooper takes the role as the antagonist, and while there are times where they clearly try to make him come across as bad. His ‘badness’ seems underdeveloped. Besides the specific acts that he has done, there seemed to be a lack of development or consistent acknowledgement to each of them.

    The rest of the characters are more comedic relief than anything, Imogen Poots is fine in her role, but besides being anything other than charming, there isn’t really much else that she offers. Meanwhile, Scott Mescudi might be a little overdone in his role, but I didn’t have a problem with him, his character relies a lot on likeability and charm, but he has some legitimately entertaining moments.

   I don’t really know what to think about the premise of the film itself. I find it difficult to value the life of a character or characters when I watch how carelessly they treat the lives of others. The ideas revolving around this film seem contradictory. By street-racing, they risk killing everybody else on the road, which, it’s a movie, so who cares, but the film emphasizes contrasting themes with the character-development for Tobey Marshall.

    Suspension of disbelief is definitely excessive on this one. It is no worse than what viewers are expected with the Fast & the Furious franchise, however. Whether you can unplug your brain on some of the outlandishness will help answer whether you’ll enjoy those scenes. I wouldn’t say that I was invested either which way, but I suppose it can be argued that I don’t really enjoy racing films.

    Besides the driving aspects, there’s a lot of nonsensicalness and stupidity that heads into the plot as well. An illegal race orchestrated by an eccentric host, and for some reason, the police can’t seem to shut him down. The fact that so much importance in placed on certain crimes when there are a million-and-one other crimes being committed also seems a tad … um … dumb. 

   I will say that the film was shot particularly well, and their choice of score wasn’t bad either. I would say that the cinematography itself might actually be the best part of the film.

    However, the run-time of 130 minutes for such a simple-plot makes it easy to forget about all of the redeeming qualities that it had. I felt like it would never end, and because of some of the pacing decisions, I felt like it was about to end, multiple times.

    In conclusion, the film is a mess of nonsense and fast-cars, supported by decent characters, good filming, and an outlandish plot. Still, under the hood, stripped of all the excess, I didn’t absolutely hate Need for Speed. I was at least entertained, which is enough to say that it isn’t a heap.

Thanks for reading

Rating: Below-Average

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