Need for Speed is stuck in the slow lane
To its credit, Need for Speed isn’t just another dumb video game adaptation that’s a poor fit for the big screen. Nope, this by any classification would be a so-dumb-it’s-stupid film regardless of its source material.
It’s too easy to watch the trailers and compare Need for Speed to the Fast and Furious franchise. Sure, both feature amazing exotic cars, insane driving and charismatic personalities, but beyond those similarities, Speed aspires to channel the tone of old school racing films like Le Mans and Hot Rod (1979).
A lofty goal, but its idiotic combination of revenge-seeking racer meets goofy comedy makes Need for Speed feel more like a cross between The Fugitive and The Cannonball Run.
Director Scott Waugh (Act of Valor) holds up his end well in this, his second feature film, navigating competently enough through the non-action scenes and cleanly shooting the racing scenes so viewers can get a hint of what it would be like to travel at 180+ mph. Waugh mixes up the action with thrilling shots that provide behind the wheel perspectives a la the video game.
Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is a top-notch racer, but he’s stuck on the street level racing circuit and scraping by just enough money to keep his mechanic shop afloat and his buddies Benny (an amusing Scott Mescudi, a.k.a. hip hop star Kid Cudi), Finn (Rami Malek, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2) and Joe (Ramon Rodriguez, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) gainfully employed.
Marshall’s ultimate dream is to compete in the annual contest organized by former racing legend Monarch (Robocop’s Michael Keaton in a zany and fun performance). A wealthy investor partners with him to let Marshall borrow his oh so sweet car, provided Marshall allows the investor’s car buyer, Julia (Imogen Poots, That Awkward Moment), to accompany him.
But to enter the race and get a chance to gain revenge on a hated rival, Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper, Dead Man Down), Marshall would do just about anything.
George Gatins probably read through a 101 Movie Cliché checklist when he crafted his debut script. There isn’t one he missed.
Whether it’s the character that has a prophetic vision before a big race, another who doesn’t believe in password protecting incriminating evidence or absurd coincidences tossed in to help move the story along, Gatins doesn’t so much make a script but a How to Make a Formulaic Action Movie — The 2014 Edition.
Yes, Gatins comes up with a plot that works within the framework of the video game, but it comes at the expense of believable or even somewhat likeable characters.
The dumb script hampers most of the actors save Paul, who comes off like a solid leading man so much better than his material. Keaton hams it up, but he’s the only one who’s enjoying himself, while Cooper is stuck playing the brilliant villain with frequent lapses in common sense.
Clocking in at 2 hours and 10 minutes, this is more like Need for Speed: Endurance Edition as the film attempts to relentlessly batter viewers with wave after wave of intelligence-numbing action. The script is too flimsy and the characters so annoying that you’d be better off just sticking to playing the game.
Need for Speed is the kind of film best enjoyed if you check your brain at the door and forget to go see it. There’s no need to encourage Hollywood to crank out more of this moronic garbage.
Rating: 1 out of 10
Photo Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon/DreamWorks