NEED FOR SPEED
** (out of 5)
March 14, 2014
Aaron Paul as TOBEY MARSHALL
Dominic Cooper as DINO BREWSTER
Imogen Poots as JULIA MADDON
Scott Mescudi as BENNY
Rami Malek as FINN
Ramon Rodriguez as JOE PECK
Michael Keaton as MONARCH
Directed by: Scott Waugh
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during the studio executive meeting when DreamWorks came up with the idea to do a movie based on the “Need for Speed” video game. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but in my mind’s eye, I imagine someone just got back from seeing one of the “Fast & Furious” movies and declared that their studio needed to get into the fast car game so they can make a billion dollars too.
Fast-forward through development, production and release, and we are left with the film “Need for Speed,” which is a colossal misfire in no uncertain terms.
The story follows a mechanic named Tobey (Aaron Paul) who also likes to street race in his spare time. After his brother is killed during an illegal street race, and the man responsible for it flees the scene, Tobey is sent to prison for two years for the crime. Once he gets out, Tobey is determined to enter a wildly popular race in order to defeat the man who killed his brother.
Before I start on the litany of what’s wrong with “Need for Speed,” let’s look at what they did right. It’s been touted in interviews and junkets that the filmmakers made the point to not rely on digital effects and CGI cars to create the street racing scenes. This is where the movie triumphs. When a car crashes or explodes, it’s a real car crashing or exploding.
This makes for some thrilling action sequences, which are extremely well shot and pretty exciting. Plus, if you’re a fast car junkie, you’ll need a change of underwear after watching the many different types of cars rocketing through these scenes.
Had “Need for Speed” been a 40-minute car commercial featuring racing sequences and explosions, it might have been a neat experiment. However, the movie runs a bloated 130 minutes for no practical reason. I suppose this overlong running time was excused by the studios because it fit in with the “Fast & Furious” template. However, the latter “Fast & Furious” movies earned the right to do this with a blockbuster franchise. “Need for Speed” overstays its welcome by trying to give its characters the credence the team has in “Fast & Furious.”
It is at the core of the film – the character and plot – where “Need for Speed” fails. The characters are painfully shallow, fitting into a cardboard template for a studio action film. They don’t have the immediate endearing nature of the characters in “Gone in 60 Seconds” or the humorous misfit conglomerate we see in the secondary cast of “Fast Five” and beyond.
Leading the pack is Aaron Paul, who is woefully out of his depth as a badass action hero. He may have been compelling in “Breaking Bad” on television, but this doesn’t transfer to the big screen. Paul doesn’t have the physicality of Vin Diesel, and he doesn’t have the rugged good looks of Paul Walker. He can’t compete with these stars that he is obviously trying to live up to. Heck, he barely even makes it to the level of Lucas Black in “Tokyo Drift.”
Like so many films churned out by Hollywood each year, “Need for Speed” has all the surface appeal of a blockbuster movie, but the connective tissue that makes a film interesting to watch is sorely lacking.