Title: Need For Speed
Did You Feel It? The 'Need For Speed?' Not even a little bit. Sorry, Goose.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two Greased Lightnings out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Ex-con terrorizes motorists in cross-country vendetta.
Tagline: "Feel the need."
Better Tagline: "Who's gonna drive you home tonight?"
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is a self-effacing, blue collar mechanic/automobile customizer/street racer who, against the better judgment of everyone including the audience, agrees to race hometown legend Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) in the hopes of making enough money to keep his shop open. After a maneuver by Dino causes the race to go tragically tits up, Tobey ends up spending two years in prison. Now he's out and has less than two days to reach California to face off against Dino again in a mythical illegal race called the "DeLeon." For REVENGE.
"Critical" Analysis: It's kind of sad to think Aaron Paul's career has nowhere to go but down. After co-starring one of the most critically acclaimed TV series of all time (Breaking Bad), he'd have to jump straight to Alexander Payne movies or a supporting role on Mad Men to keep that streak going, and -- if we're going to be honest about how mediocre Need for Speed really is -- that doesn't look to be happening anytime soon. Truth be told, I was a little bummed out by this.
But then my wife pointed out Paul earned over $2 million for the final season of Breaking Bad alone, so maybe it's not that devastating a tragedy.
The Need for Speed franchise is the bestselling video game series in history, a stat which becomes less impressive when you realize there have been 23 separate versions released since 1994. Weirdly, none of them (to my recollection) involve a wrongful imprisonment plot, a character named "Tobey," or transcontinental vengeance. I doubt anyone will care about this (or even if most people know the movie is based on a video game), it's just funny that "Need for Speed" was the title DreamWorks latched on to. Given the lack of established narrative, they could've just as easily called this Gran Turismo or Pole Position or fucking Mario Kart, if you're going to name it after a video game at all, I mean.
Because video games these days tend to have coherent narratives and offer the occasional surprise. You just know Pete (Harrison Gilbertson), the younger brother of Dino's girlfriend Anita (with whom Tobey has A Past), is going to die in the race. You also know Julia (Imogen Poots), the car dealer who brokered the sale Dino screwed Tobey over on, will inexplicably join him on his trek (supplying him with a $3 million Shelby Mustang in the process). And had director Scott Waugh handled this with a little skill, we probably could've forgiven him.
But that's not the case, of course. Example: Tobey goes to jail for Pete's death because Dino drives off -- in a bazillion dollar Swedish hypercar -- and he can't prove there were three cars on the scene, in spite of the fact the race took place in broad daylight on a busy highway. Dino also puts a hit out on Tobey, posting a pic of his car (not a difficult one to find) and offering the person or persons who prevent him from reaching California a Lamborghini as a reward. This happens before Tobey and Julia even make it out of New York, yet no one even tries until they reach Monument Valley, because scenery.
The soundtrack also leaves much to be desired. I'm sure "Aloe Blacc" is a fine fellow, but nobody was really clamoring for new covers of "Fortunate Son" or "All Along the Watchtower."
Admittedly, the racing scenes in Need for Speed (very little CGI was used) are entertaining, and there are a few high-ish performance points, mostly supplied by the supporting cast (Rami Malek and Poots, especially). And as the manic "Monarch," the mysterious sponsor of the DeLeon, this may be closest thing we get to seeing Michael Keaton playing Beetlejuice again.
But the worst part comes at the end, which I'm going to spoil in its entirety. After winning the DeLeon (GASP), Tobey is pretty much right back where he started. Sure, Dino is going to jail, but because every other car but Tobey's gets totaled during the race, he can't even save his shop, because the prize was -- wait for it -- the pinks for the other five competing cars. How much does the scrap from a wrecked Bugatti Veyron get on eBay? Even Dino's Koenigsegg, which Tobey drives in the race after it was "donated" by Anita, can't be sold because it's evidence in a crime. As Dr. Venture might say, CURSE YOU MONARCH!
Need for Speed is in theaters today. I'm sure watching a bunch of assholes recklessly zipping around in traffic is exactly what people are in the mood to see this weekend.
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