WARNING: This film may cause unsafe vehicle operation after viewing. Adapted from Electronic Arts‘ long running and massively successful series of racing video games, Need for Speed is low on plot but high on octane and character.
Need for Speed is exactly what you expect from a movie based on a game with no plot other than racing expensive cars. There’s just enough plot to move things from one explosive car chase to the next with some highly amusing characters in tow.
The exotic cars showcased here may not be typical stock, but the characters are. Aaron Paul, rocking a Drive inspired jacket, is Tobey Marshall – the small town genius mechanic and talented racer who never got his real shot at the big time. Dominic Cooper trades in his Howard Stark gadgets for slightly more realistic ones as Dino Brewster, the cocky small town racer who did make the big time. Imogen Poots is Julia, the British babe with brains. Rami Malek who proved himself above his Twilight past in Short Term 12 is one half of the comedy duo with Kid Cudi as the watchful eye in the sky with a smart mouth attached. Kid Cudi is the watchful eye in the sky with a smart mouth attached. Scott Mescudi is the guy with the big truck. Harrison Gilbertson, sporting a Twilight hairdo is the naive kid, Pete, who’s only function is as a catalyst, and Michael Keaton is in his most entertaining role ever as “Monarch,” a rich eccentric ex-driver who runs a not so secret web show and an underground race. They’re all characters you might expect to find in any racing video game with a story mode.
When something horrible happens to Pete, Tobey is blamed for the crime and sent away to prison. When he’s finally released, he’s determined to get revenge against the true villain – Dino – in the only way possible in this scenario. Behind the wheel. Determined to get into Monarch’s secret race, Tobey jumps into a custom Shelby Mustang (perhaps the same one from Getaway?) with Julia along for the ride, headed across the country while facing obstacles of all sorts along the way. It’s the race before the race!
If you pause to think about the plot here, or question the physics just a little, everything falls apart. It’s a good thing then that this movie doesn’t give you the opportunity to do either of those things as the petal is firmly adhered to the floor the entire time. This is pure car porn as million dollar vehicles defy reason in surprisingly realistic chase scenes across the country. While the characters may be one dimensional and second fiddle to the vehicles, the actors are all quite capable and grab hold of what makes each character entertaining and just runs with it.
While the overly long run-time of this movie does drag things out a tad too long, it’s a mostly fun, mostly non-stop ride that doesn’t concern itself too much with being plausible. Using mostly practical effects, though, the driving feels real most of the time and there are only a few instances where the logic centers of your brain say, “hold up, nuh-uh.” The whole thing feels like a video game with school buses as obstacles, generic cop cars as bad guys, and fancy shortcuts to be had if you’re daring enough. It almost reminds me of the short lived cartoon of the late 90’s, Nascar Racers. The story only advances as the racers do, and isn’t even that important half the time, but the characters are still entertaining.
The film looks great with exotic cars, beautiful locales, and heart pumping driving. The 3D is actually surprisingly good – some of the best I’ve seen in a while. If you’re a big car enthusiast, it might actually be worth the extra bucks.
This is a movie that knows its audience and knows what it is and what it isn’t, and there’s nothing wrong with that. This movie is for fans of fast, shiny cars, and gamers. It feels like a game come to life, and in those respects, it delivers ten fold. It succeeds in what it set out to be and is easily one of the best films to claim a video game as it’s inspiration. If you have a requirement for going fast, this entertaining popcorn flick will not disappoint.
Mrs. Hamster did not screen this film
My rating: Three out of five hats
Need for Speed races into 3,115 theaters, March 14 in 2D and 3D