Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) and his friends run a small tune-up workshop for high performance cars. Although with the finances of the workshop getting worse all the boys decide that illegal street racing is a way to pick up some extra cash. Their recent win sparks the interest of professional motor racer (and former rival) Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) to approach them about working on a rare Shelby Mustang car. However when their association with Dino ends with the death of Little Pete (Harrison Gilbertson) Tobey finds himself framed and doing jail time. Determined for revenge on Dino, Tobey teams up with love interest Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots), Joe (Ramon Rodriguez) and Finn (Rami Malek) to race against him in the prestigious street race organised by the media-savvy Monarch (Michael Keaton).
Over the recent years we’ve seen a huge rise in the quality of movies based on comic books and graphic novels. In the early days they were considered a bit of a joke, think about the way the Fantastic Four franchise was received, now and stop and think about how The Dark Knight and The Avengers were received. Yes these days you can go into a cinema to see a comic book film and know that there is a good chance that writing, directing and acting is going to be top notch.
Then there is the poor video game movie genre. Over the years it has delivered us some pretty nasty films – anyone else see the likes of Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and DOA? Sure there have been some passable films, things like Resident Evil, Tomb Raider and Silent Hill but sadly as a genre it has never caught up with its big brother. Well now comes Need For Speed, a film based on the highly successful video game series, sadly it’s also a film that firmly plants itself right in that so-so pile when it comes to quality.
The fault with this movie though certainly doesn’t lie with the work of the director, Scott Waugh. Waugh comes from a stunt background working on films such as XXX and Mr & Mrs. Smith but over recent years has delved into directing helming the well-received Act Of Valor. His background certainly shows because the highlight of Need For Speed are the fast cars and some pretty impressive stunts.
It’s there though that the plusses for Need For Speed end. While the film didn’t exactly have to be Oscar worthy you would have thought that the screenwriter, George Gatins, may have tried to have brought a little more meat to the table. Early on he seems to get it right with the right amount of emotion put into the characters but the second half of the film just seems to become one long race with car upon car getting busted up with some of the most unbelievable Police tactics that you are ever likely to see (seriously if you thought the law enforcement tactics in Kiss Of The Dragon were over the top you’re in for an even bigger surprise here).
The film does do enough early on to make you feel for Tobey but sadly towards the end of the film he just becomes another walking cliché alongside Dino and Julia and while you want to see him win the race and justice to be done there just isn’t that emotional involvement there that should be there. Yes while it is obvious that Gatins has tried to learn a few screenwriting tips from films such as Nicolas Cage’s Gone In Sixty Seconds or the juggernaut that is the Fast & Furious franchise he obviously didn’t pay attention to the fact that those writers also spent a great deal of time in characterisation as a way to get the audience involved in the film.
As you would expect then the actors really aren’t given much to work with in their Need For Speed roles. While Breaking Bad’s Aaron Pauldoes enough to suggest that he could be an action hero one day, poor Imogen Poots and Dominic Cooper and pushed into the backseat with roles they just breezed through. The only actor who did look a little better than average was Michael Keaton who brought a lot of energy to the maniacal Monarch, although even then you have to wonder why Keaton was slumming it in a film like this anyway.
Need For Speed really does feel like a car racing film that is trying to eat into the Fast & Furious franchise, but a weak script seriously holds it back so much that it’s highly unlikely that Vin Diesel and co will have to worry about contender trying to take their title. While fans of the game may enjoy Need For Speed it’s certainly not the kind of film that even they will be raving about one they see it. Yet again a video game cinematic adaption stalls at the starting line.
Director: Scott Waugh
Starring: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Michael Keaton, Imogen Poots
Running Time: 132 minutes
Release Date: 21 July 2014