Need For Speed (2014)

Need For Speed (2014)

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For a second he thought he'd spotted Mr White lurking nearby.
For a second he thought he’d spotted Mr White lurking nearby.

Twitter Plot Summary: Tobey seeks revenge on Dino for the death of his friend in a street race.

Five Point Summary:

1. Street racing and bad acting. Feels like 2001 all over again.
2. Finally, the plot gets moving.
3. A (very) brief chase to satisfy the “bounty” portion of the story.
4. That’s no way to treat a Bugatti Veyron.
5. Was it all worth it? Debatable.

Yet again we have a movie adaptation of a popular video game series to feast our eyes upon, this time in the slightly unexpected form of EA’s Need For Speed franchise. Unexpected because the Need for Speed franchise isn’t exactly known for its dedication to in depth storytelling.

Need for Speed is, surprisingly, not bad at all, but certainly not great. The storyline is as wafer thin as Mr Creosote’s wafer thin mint (as expected), with mechanic Tobey seeking revenge against villainous Dino (Cooper) for the death of Tobey’s friend in a street race. Whilst the story is equivalent to crepe paper (the bad guy wears black, just in case you weren’t sure who he was), the car stunts more than make up for this. Not resorting to CGI effects was a brave decision, but it does have the bonus of grounding the film in reality. Even more sensibly, if a stunt would break a car in real life , it breaks the car here too. On that front, it’s a win.

Going back to that story, it’s definitely not one to use as an example of positive role models for youngsters – our central quintet race cars illegally on the streets, they have no concerns about spending time in prison as a result of their street racing, and they also lack the ability to think up a decent plan. Yes, it’s quite an adventure whilst you’re in the middle of the adventure, but afterwards (much like Star Trek Into Darkness) there’s a definite sense of sequences being used just because they looked good. But again, the stars here are the cars, and in that respect Need For Speed delivers. Well, to an extent – the cars are mostly shells of popular vehicles on a custom chassis – I’d hate to see an actual Bugatti Veyron treated like the one in the film.

You'll believe a car can fly!
You’ll believe a car can fly!

There will be a few aspects familiar to those who have played the video games, most notably the race map that shows the racer’s progress in the super secret street race that apparently the police are entirely aware of from the start – no doubt from chasing Tobey halfway across the country, or maybe just by tuning in to Michael Keaton’s less than secret internet radio station. Yes, Michael Keaton shows up in an exotically located office to broadcast his thoughts on illegal street racing, and probably filmed all of his scenes in a day or two at most. One must question the logic of his approach to publicity – if it’s all supposed to be a big secret, why does he broadcast his face via webcam? I think this is perhaps one of many elements of the script that nobody gave much thought to, much like the contradictory role of Imogen Poots who, despite having an impressive knowledge of cars and driving in general, is then constantly berated as being a bad driver. Contradiction, much?

I would have preferred it if the script had made more of the bounty placed on Tobey as he tries to reach the big race – one sequence is all we get. Whilst the interplay between the five main characters is moderately believable, there isn’t much to define them beyond a couple of key characteristics apiece. One of them is so undefined that the only thing I can say about him is that he is a mechanic and he has a chin beard. That’s literally it. By comparison, Aaron Paul is rather good as Tobey, but then anyone who has seen Breaking Bad would expect as much. He doesn’t have much in the way of dialogue, but he pulls off what would in less capable hands be an incredibly poorly drawn persona.

So, a few interesting race sequences aside, the Fast and Furious franchise has little to worry about. Without some wholesale changes to the script and tone it’s unlikely there will be a Need For Speed movie franchise. Unless this one makes a huge amount of money, of course.

Score: 2.5/5

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