From Meth to Speed

FFCC member Kai Sacco reviews Scott Waugh’s Need for Speed.

Need for Speed Review Header photo NeedforSpeed_HQHeader_zps5a4b386e.png


★★ out of ★★★★

By Kai Sacco

In Rush (2013) when socialite Marlene Knaus tells Niki Lauda that he couldn’t possibly be a Formula One racer because he drives like an old man outside of the track, he responds, ‘There’s no need to drive fast. It just increases the percentage of risk. We’re not in a hurry, I’m not being paid. Right now with zero incentive or reward, why would I drive fast?’ Lauda’s analytical approach to handling a 1,322-pound, 450-horsepower coffin on wheels is something you will not find in any of the Need for Speed characters. They’re not concerned with risk, and they’re certainly not concerned with the safety of the pedestrians they’re weaving around going 120-plus miles per hour while illegally racing. Even the fearless outlook on racing Lauda’s rival, James Hunt, displays operates within legal and honorable boundaries: ‘The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel. It’s a wonderful way to live. It’s the only way to drive.’ That knight-like nobility is absent in director Scott Waugh’s video game adaptation.

I could berate the Fast & Furious franchise for holding the same recklessness, except for the fact that those films became respectable (to a certain degree) after the fifth installment almost completely dropped the street racing aspect that made them so popular. Even before Fast Five, purpose was given to characters’ lead feet. It wasn’t only racing just to race. It’s no coincidence that those films grew in quality with their sudden change of heart after a number of sequels.

Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul leads Need for Speed playing Tobey Marshall, a mechanic/racer whose shop is threatening to close unless he secures the necessary funds. Those funds arrive in the form of Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), a rival of Tobey’s who offers the down-and-out repairmen 25% of the $2 million asking price of Carroll Shelby’s Ford Mustang that he was working on before passing away—25% if he completes building it, that is. Tobey accepts, and his team brings to life what Shelby didn’t have the chance to.

After showing the gorgeous, chrome and blue-striped muscle car at a high-end auction, Julia (Imogen Poots), a buyer working for a powerful individual, offers $3 million for the car if Tobey can prove its 200-plus miles per hour range he speaks so confidently about. Obviously, he’s able to get the car well over that speed because he’s in the “I’m the Best at What I Do” role.

Dino gets a little jealous over Tobey’s superior skills behind the wheel; Dino challenges Tobey and his buddy to a highway race (danger looms ahead); Dino accidentally kills Tobey’s buddy; Dino flees the scene; Tobey gets pitted for manslaughter after Dino is able to clear his presence from the crime; Tobey spends two years in jail; Tobey is released on parole; Tobey’s first instinct after enduring 730 some-odd days behind bars is to get back behind the wheel and revenge his fallen comrade by racing Dino in the De Leon, one of the biggest (illegal) races in the world.

Now, there are much, much better and safer ways to avenge someone, but Tobey is also in the “This Is the Only Thing I Know How to Do Role” role, so… well… that’s the only thing he knows how to do. The funniest aspect of Tobey’s road to justice is that Dino is seemingly unconcerned with all of it. He doesn’t hold anything against Tobey, and for all intents and purposes, as a villain, doesn’t do any kind of villainy. He’s just a 35-year-old baby who has too much money and made a really stupid mistake, while participating in the same activity that Tobey himself does. Hypocrisy kills all.

People will flock to Need for Speed for the same reason they flock to the Fast & Furious flicks: to watch beautiful cars going really, really fast. But why settle for a low-rent version of those accomplished films when they do it so much better? (The action is fine—it’s nothing particularly thrilling, but the complete lack of CGI is commendable.) And is the reason we enjoy the Fast movies REALLY because of the cars, or is it because of the closeness we have with the characters thanks to the writing team make each of them their own person? I’d say the latter, which is why Need for Speed doesn’t have much going for it.

Cast & Crew

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

Harrison Gilbertson as Little Pete

Dakota Johnson as Anita

Stevie Ray Dallimore as Bill Ingram

Michael Keaton as Monarch

Directed by Scott Waugh

Screenplay by George Gatins

Produced by John Gatins, Patrick O’Brien and Mark Sourian

Cinematography by Shane Hurlbut

Film Editing by Paul Rubell and Scott Waugh

Production Design by Jon Hutman

Art Direction by Christopher R. DeMuri

Original Music by Nathan Furst

Runtime: 2 hr 10 min (130 min)

Rated PG-13 (sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language)

Release Date: March 14, 2014

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