Adaptations are commonplace in today’s film industry and most of then are derived from novels (of all sorts), other films, toys or even news articles. Somewhere in that realm of adaptations lies the gaming category, as a few films of recent have been based off of successful video games that could prove successful if made into a movie. Typically, these games are more fantastical, but this time around an adaptation is grounded in reality and is revved to the max.
Tobey Marshal (Aaron Paul) owns his own auto shop and works to keep his father’s business alive. He works hard during the day and at night, he unleashes his true potential in the art of street racing. The mechanically minded Marshall teams up with his buddies Benny (Scott Mescudi), Finn (Rami Malek), Joe (Ramon Rodriguez), and Little Pete (Harrison Gilbertson), in an effort to race the streets and win some money. This business is fine, until elite racer Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) comes back to town and offers Tobey and his crew an interesting offer.
Tobey and his boys are tasked to finish the Shelby Cobra that Carroll Shelby was working on when he died and if they do so, they get a cut of the profit. Sure enough, the car sells and then a burning rivalry begins again between Tobey and Dino. In a three person race to see who’s the best, Dino sends Little Pete off the road to his death and leaves Tobey behind to be held accountable. When Tobey is finally released from prison, he’s hell-bent on revenge and is equipped with the Shelby Cobra and assistant Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots). Tobey’s goal is to race Dino in “The Monarch’s” (Michael Keaton) secret race and have him tried for his crimes. No matter who/what may try to stop him, he’s not slowing down.
Need For Speed is going to get a lot of comparisons to the other car film franchise, Fast & Furious, but the two films don’t have much in common. In both cases, the films are a ton of fun, but Need For Speed focuses more on the cars and the things that the drivers can do with them. The film is adrenaline-fueled, funny, and manages to take a game without much of a premise and turn it into a cool movie to watch. The games and their plots (yes, there are many Need For Speed games) have influence in this film, but there are a lot of great characters and a unique story that find their footing in this film.
Aaron Paul is fresh off the Breaking Bad train and he’s out to prove that he’s more than a Drug Dealer who’s obsessed with the word “bitch”. Not once does he utter that word in the film, but he instead proves that he can be a very serious actor that can carry his own film. His presence is always felt and he’s incredibly badass in the film, which makes it even more enjoyable. The supporting cast also kills it, with Michael Keaton in a standout role that has him acting all kinds of crazy and it’s clear that he absolutely loves it. He’ll leave you laughing and clutching you sides, as will the antics of Malek and Mescudi. Poots also has a good time and she proves more than a pretty face, with many action sequences and sly jokes.
Director Scott Waugh had only directed one film before this (Act of Valor) and his directorial skills are fine. Where he excels, is with his decades worth of being a stuntman in Hollywood and how he used what he learned to make an awesome looking film. All the stunts, jumps, lifts, and crashes in the film are real and it all seems more realistic. CGI can look cool, but the feel of real stunt-work is something far more exhilarating and the high-speed racing is a prime example of that. The cars are driving over 120 MPH and have modified cars with cameras following them, leading them, and coming alongside them to give you a sense of how fast these supercars can go. There’s no speeding up the races in the editing room and everything you’ll see leaves an impact. This was the perfect project for Waugh and he does a bang-up job.
The script for this film is easily its weakest element, but were you really expecting intelligent dialogue in a film based off of a street racing game? The games are all about evading police officers, racing other cars wherever, and not getting caught. With that being said, the script could have had some fine-tuning done to it, so as to avoid classic movie tropes that make your eyes roll. There are jokes every now and again which will elicit some laughter, but there are also a few sequences in the film that are so random and that try so hard to be funny, that they just end up failing and leaving the audience unsure of what they just witnessed. It’s moments like those that make you question what the writers were thinking.
While usually I’d applaud a film for flushing out its characters and focusing a sizeable amount of time on them, I wish that this film had focused more on the street racing and sexy cars. Most of the characters are one-dimensional and I’m not complaining about that, because it works for this film that’s made to entertain. However, I feel like too much time was devoted to characters that you don’t end up caring much about. When the story is unfolding, all you can think about is watching a Bugatti and a Lamborghini tear up the pavement. The cars are all extremely expensive and equally good-looking, so I’m wondering why we didn’t get to spend more time learning their ins and outs. Also, the soundtrack doesn’t work with the film at all. Should have had more rock/rap.
Of all the big-budget and live-action films released in 2014, Need For Speed is easily the most enjoyable and it’s one that audiences are going to have an awesome time with. The cars and racing will appeal to any age and there’s eye candy for everyone. This film just goes to show that good ole’ fashioned stunts are much better than CGI ones. I suggest you hop in the car, drive out to see this film and then carefully drive home. You’re gonna have the need. The need for speed *Top Gun High Five*!
Need For Speed Trailer