Film Review: 'Need For Speed'
Opened: 14 March 2014
Cast: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Kid Cudi, Imogen Poots, Ramón Rodríguez and Michael Keaton
Director: Scott Waugh
Producers: John Gatins, Patrick O'Brien, Mark Sourian
Based on the highly lucrative and seemingly endless EA games franchise of the same name, Need For Speed is the latest attempt by the gaming industry to push its product beyond consoles, and into movie theatres. Cynically, and quite rightly, we can imagine that EA will not simply be looking for a cut, but hoping for some serious kick back in terms of games sales. Of course this grim corporate approach is everywhere now, and has given us the face-palm inducing Doom and in the not too distant future the World of Warcraft movie.
Brought to the big screen by Scott Waugh, who although not the most seasoned director has a long history in stunt coordination and so has the ideal background for a film that is essentially a succession of stunts. It does not then however take a speedy mind to add up the ingredients of the movie and realise how it will all end up. A non-existent, nonsensical plot built on a highly dodgy set up is further aggravated by some questionable scripting and Aaron Paul’s feature length voice over audition for Batman; combined together these elements pull this film deep into Razzie territory.
Fresh from TVs most famous meth lab, the movie’s lead Aaron Paul makes a huge jump from Breaking Bad’s loser junky dealer Jessie Pinkman to James Dean/Steve McQueen anti hero, Tobey Marshall. While it is understandable that this kind of movie is appealing to him (and his agent no doubt), it proves a step too far and he does not pull off the transformation required, leaving questions about his suitability as an action lead.
Most of the cast do their best with what they are given, which is not much at all. Commendable efforts are made by the theatrical and enchanting Imogen Poots as emerging love interest Julia, and Dominic Cooper does his best to bring the cardboard cut-out rubbish villain Dino Brewster to life. Special mention to Michael Keaton who is perfectly cast as Monarch, the marginally insane organiser of the legendary De Leon race, and who delivers an energetic performance - albeit a monologue as he shares no scenes with any other actors.
The real stars of this show, if there was ever any doubt, are the cars and chases sequences. It would be unfair to simply call these beautiful set pieces ‘races’ because they are incredible pieces of film making and genuine technical brilliance. Many movies boast a brilliant car chase and very few ever deliver on their bluster, but with Need For Speed there is no bluster and all delivery. Because the chases are so excellent the action and characters of the movie are reinvigorated each time there is one, but our interest always ebbs away again after a few scenes of poorly scripted banter. Compared to the exuberant glamour of The Fast & The Furious franchise Need For Speed has a grittier, grounded feel that makes the action and the danger a little more real for us. Unlike the aforementioned franchise however, it does not have a strong lead like most the chapters of that series, boasting Paul Walker and Vin Diesel.
Ultimately there really was no Need For Speed, and this was all an endeavour to sell more console games, but if you are a fan of car chases this should not be missed… on DVD.
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