Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 2 hours 12 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sequences of Reckless Street Racing, Disturbing Crash Scenes, Nudity and Crude Language
Directed by: Scott Waugh
Written by: George Gatins
(based on the video game NEED FOR SPEED)
Starring: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Scott Mescudi, Ramon Rodriguez, Michael Keaton & Dakota Johnson
A sad fact of life is that video game adaptations have a bad reputation. There’s a solid foundation for that too, because most of them are terrible. There are a few exceptions (SILENT HILL) to this rule of thumb, but they seem to be few and far between. NEED FOR SPEED is the newest video-game-turned-movie and one of the worst. There are many reasons why it crashes and burns (see what I did there?), so I will systematically rip this thing apart to scrap metal.
Tobey Marshall is a born racer behind the wheel of any car. This doesn’t free him and his crew from financial trouble though. They are close to losing their auto body shop. After making a deal with Dino Brewster (Tobey’s rival), the future is looking bright. It all crashes down as a spur of the moment race between Tobey and Dino results in the tragedy. Tobey’s friend is killed and he’s been framed for manslaughter. After serving two years in prison, Tobey’s out on parole and wants vengeance for his friend’s death. He plans on taking down Dino in the biggest race of the country. He’ll need the help of his old crew to get back on the road and get revenge.
NEED FOR SPEED has problems right out of the gate. The biggest issue is the film’s bloated running time. Scott Waugh and George Gatins seem content to deliver lots of filler. There are plenty of scenes that to stall between car chases. The opening 30 minutes are a massive waste of time and all build to a certain car that could have been covered in a few lines of exposition. 20 solid minutes could have been chopped out of the first quarter of the film. Not to mention the 15 minutes we spend in Detroit later on. This segment is spent watching the crew dick around and attract the unnecessary attention of cops. By the time the California sign (their destination from the start) comes into view, I let out a sigh of relief. The film was (hopefully) nearly over and then a bunch more convoluted junk happened to stretch the time even longer.
None of the cast deliver anything close to a halfway decent performance. I knew that this film wouldn’t have a pinnacle of acting achievement, but nobody seems to be putting any effort into their roles. The entire plot circulates around the feud between Aaron Paul and Dominic Cooper. Both characters are equally as bland. Kudos go to Michael Keaton for already appearing in two shitty movies during 2014. As if his role in ROBOCOP wasn’t bad enough, Keaton sinks to downright embarrassing levels as a dude with colored glasses and a bad goatee. It’s two strikes for Keaton this year and we’re not even into the summer movie season yet.
If the performances weren’t bad enough, the jumbled tone of the film never seems to decide on what kind of movie it is. The forced comedy relief will appeal to the lowest common denominator. One notable scene of this flick’s sense of humor comes from a long sequence of a guy stripping naked as he quits his job. The entire scene feels like it’s from a completely different movie. There’s also a running gag of a crew member showing up in different (progressively bigger) helicopters when it’s convenient for the plot.
If the lame so-called humor doesn’t feel dumb enough, the forced dramatic angles are downright insulting to the viewer’s intelligence. NEED FOR SPEED is a film that has one of the most cliché-ridden scenes bound to appear on the big screen all year. I’m talking about a slow-motion death scene complete with a character screaming “Nooooooooo!” and then followed up by a funeral montage with sad music of a woman humming. There’s also a half-assed attempt at romance, which only causes an even more sloppy final product.
NEED FOR SPEED was built to deliver car races/car chases. The cars do have more personality than the characters after all. Even then, they’re still pretty bland. Nearly all of these vehicle mayhem scenes are too long, just average stuff, and not engaging in the slightest. The final race is the only watchable scene in the entire movie and it took a good portion of two hours to get to that point. It’s not worth wading through all the crap to get to the one tolerable car race in the entire movie.
Not much was to be expected from a Disney adaptation of a racing video game, but this film failed on every basic level (save for one watchable moment that saves it from an F grade). The road NEED FOR SPEED rides lasts far too long, constantly weaves into unnecessary dramatic territory, and is riddled with plot-holes. It’s not a pleasant experience for the viewer and I certainly can’t imagine fans of the game being pleased with this. Avoid it at all costs!