With the tragic events surrounding Fast 7 last year, Need for Speed has now come out unopposed in the vehicular action genre. As Fast and Furious has gotten more and more insane, Need for Speed brings things down to a slightly more realistic level.
Aaron Paul stars as Tobey Marshall, a mechanic from a small town in New York with a failing body shop. After restoring a legendary Mustang for his rival, Dino (Dominic Cooper), the two flex their driving muscles with a high stakes race in high end European sports cars that ends with Tobey’s friend Pete dead in a fiery wreck and Tobey sent away for two years. Upon getting out, he’s determined to enter and win an underground race put on by the mysterious and wealthy eccentric podcaster, Monarch (Michael Keaton) to, I guess, get money to save his body shop and prove he’s the best racer. Honestly, the plot is kind of terrible and makes no sense and it’s exasperated by the melodram that occurs to further the plot. Not even Aaron Paul can save the ham fisted dialogue and he’s literally on his knees screaming “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” into the air at one point. There’s also a love story between Paul and Imogen Poots, who is fun and spunky but it’s insanely cliche like everything else about the plot.
The saving grace of the movie, thankfully, is the racing and driving sequences, which are pretty much all fantastic. Director Scott Waugh is from a stunt background, previously working on Act of Valor, and the stunts are all pretty much all old school practical, with cars flipping and slamming into each other and objects. It actually turns into a sort of modern day Smokey and the Bandit for the middle section, with Tobey and his crew trying to stay one step ahead of the cops and having only a little under 2 days to get from New York to San Fransisco. There’s set pieces in Detroit, Nebraska and the desert around the Grand Canyon and there’s at least one cool set piece moment in each of them. The actual races are extremely well shot and incorporates some POV shots as, I’m guessing, an homage to the games and the final race definitely pulls heavily from arguably the best game in the series, Hot Pursuit. Speaking of the games, it feels like all internet communications go through the “Autlog” system that was created for Hot Pursuit or at least Michael Keaton’s character created a similar system where people call in to him, track the race and upload videos.
As far as video game movies go, Need for Speed is head and shoulders above most of them but doesn’t meet the bar set by the Fast & Furious movies. If you’re a fan of racing, there’s tons of races and tons of cars to watch in the movie but if you’re looking for a unique, original plot, look elsewhere.