Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Movie Review: Need for Speed

Need for Speed
Directed by: Scott Waugh.
Written by: George Gatins & John Gatins.
Starring: Aaron Paul (Tobey Marshall), Dominic Cooper (Dino Brewster), Imogen Poots (Julia Maddon), Scott Mescudi (Benny), Rami Malek (Finn), Ramon Rodriguez (Joe Peck), Harrison Gilbertson (Little Pete), Dakota Johnson (Anita), Stevie Ray Dallimore (Bill Ingram), Michael Keaton (Monarch).

 The best thing I can say about Need for Speed is that most of the stunts and car chases were actual stunts and chases – and not just a lot of CGI. CGI has opened up a lot things for filmmakers that were never possible before, but sometimes too much CGI just feels fake in special effects sequences, and don’t have real sense of danger or weight. Look at a film like the Wachowski's Speed Racer, which had many car chases done with CGI for an example. But the chases here feel real, and are shot fairly decently – and there is a sense of danger to them. The worst thing you can say about Need for Speed is pretty much everything else. The car chases work – for a time anyway – but by the end of this movie, which for some reason runs over two hours, I was just tired of everything about the movie.

Based on a videogame, Need for Speed strangely has too much plot – that takes too long to set in motion – and too little, since it’s a relatively simple story that the screenplay makes way too complicated. In broad strokes, the film is about Tobey (Aaron Paul), who runs the best hot rod shop around, but cannot make any money off of it. He has lost his girlfriend to Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) – a spoiled rich kid, and star racer, although everyone knows that Tobey is the better driver. Dino throws Tobey a bone – fix up a Mustang that will sell for more than $2 million when it’s done, and Tobey can pocket some of that money. But Dino is an asshole, of course, and Tobey’s an idiot, so he’s willing to risk it all to beat Dino is a race – a race that goes horribly wrong, and ends with someone dead. Tobey takes the rap – although it was Dino’s fault – spends two years and jail, and then gets out. He gets his hands on the Mustang, is stuck with Julia (Imogen Poots), whose boss owns the Mustang, as his passenger and has to race across the country with his crew to make a race put on by Monarch (Michael Keaton – the only one who seems to be having fun in the movie), and get his revenge on Dino – who does everything possible to ensure Tobey won’t make it.

It’s a simple story, but the movie spends too long setting it up, introducing us to uninteresting characters, and too long to get to that damn race at the end – pretty much the entire movie really. By the time the race actually happens, it feels like an afterthought. The movie is basically he race across the country, which is too drawn out to be much fun. Most of the actors in the ensemble are fairly talented – and have done good work in the past – but aren’t given anything to do in the movie. Aaron Paul goes from Breaking Bad, to a series of angry faces in this film – he`s hell-bent on revenge, and that`s basically the only "emotion" he is asked to portray. Cooper is slimy in every scene. Poots is the lovable girl next door who’s cool because she's interested in boy things. Keaton is some sort of all knowing, all seeing weirdo – which, let’s be honest, is a role made for Keaton.
Perhaps if the movie was 90 minutes, and nothing but car chases, it would have worked. When the cars are racing, the movie can be fun. But then everything grinds to a halt whenever the movie slows down long enough for the characters to speak to each other. If nothing else, the movie proves just how hard it is to make movies as fun and stupid as the Fast & Furious movies. They are also big, dumb, loud movies about nothing but fast cars, but they are also fun. Need for Speed is only the first half of that sentence.

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