A need not much else
Proving that a film can be as dumb as it is well crafted, “Need for Speed” is as idiotic and irresponsible as you might expect a video game adaptation to be. But given that the film centers on street racing and is essentially a poor man’s “Fast & Furious,” and considering the recent death of that franchise’s star Paul Walker– himself a victim of a high speed car crash—an eerie shadow hangs over the proceedings here.
But that may not matter much while watching “Need for Speed” take off. If you can sit through the cardboard, stock-character acting on display and a script that appears written in the wee hours on a cocktail napkin, then there is something here to appreciate.
The film’s first bad decision was to cast TV’s “Breaking Bad” actor Aaron Paul as the lead. Paul appears to be trying to impersonate Steve McQueen (not the director, but the famous actor in 1968’s “Bullitt” from which a scene quickly appears in backdrop), and whose main tough guy move involves wiping his face and chin with his hand. (By my count at least nine times.) His cute blond sidekick who rides and sometimes drives next to him is Brit hottie Imogen Poots, who sports the features of a Jude Law-Rosanna Arquette offspring.
There are bad bets, revenge matches, cross-country races against time and of course the ultimate shootout: an underground high-speed duel where the good guy prevails and it doesn’t matter how many innocents die in the process! Unless of course the victim is the fresh-faced friend of the hero whose death must be avenged at all costs!
The real stars of the film are the beautiful, exotic replicas of the world’s fastest “street legal” cars with names like Bugatti Veyron SS, Mclaren P1, Koenigsegg Agera R and Carroll Shelby Mustang. There’s no way a film of this budget could destroy these expensive cars, but these fiberglass bodies-on-tube-chassis stunt cars, filmed with little or no CGI and driven by stuntmen of the highest caliber steal the show. Clearly the filmmakers are first and foremost car fans, taking time to record the sounds of the real autos and going to incredible lengths to capture these cars in their exhilarating, rubber-squealing, throttle-throwing, breathtaking beauty and from a multitude of angles. The work here doesn’t quite match the quality of Ron Howard’s “Rush” but it can’t be dismissed either.
This is one of those films that is truly difficult to assess. The target audience won’t regret putting down its joystick for a couple of hours to see its fantasies fulfilled on the big screen.
But for anyone looking for depth or distinction, nevermind. “Need for Speed” is a road to nowhere.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language.