Review: Need for Speed
For all its faults, from losing focus to being way too long, Need for Speed is a hard movie to hate, and harder to ignore.
That of course is due in part to the incessant roar of engines that accompany this action adventure car flick about a wrongfully imprisoned mechanic bent on revenge and salvation of sorts. It’s mainly due, however, to the earnestness brought to the screen by every member of the cast and crew – they are all trying really hard to make you care about the journey of these characters, even if their fates are the most formulaic.
Indeed, when Aaron Paul, trying very hard here to look and sound like anyone other than Jesse Pinkman, is allowed to speak for longer than two or three words at a time, his charm and talent is readily apparent. His benefactor and companion for a wild ride across the country, the young and lovely British actress Imogen Poots, too is full of life and ability to make generic dialogue in something much more.
The pair, aided by a ragtag team of uniquely-skilled and immensely entertaining grease monkeys, trek from New York to San Francisco with the clock ticking in order to enter an a secret road race that will not only set past wrongs right, but earn our determined hero Tobey Marshall money and fame to save the family business.
So it’s a car-chase film, a revenge thriller, a romance, a road trip comedy, a race-against-the-clock suspense, and a save-the-family business drama. And while it is interminable, running a staggering 2 hours and 10 minutes, this video game-turned feature film by Scott Waugh features some breathtaking action sequences and gorgeous vistas. It may be the sort of younger brother to the Fast and Furious franchise, but this goes the more wholesome, heartfelt, and beautiful route.
With Dominic Cooper in the role of the sleazy badguy, gloriously named Dino Brewster, and Michael Keaton as the wacky proprietor of this famed street race (seen only in a teched-out room where he broadcasts a webshow and does play by play), the characters are familiar but easy enough to care about.
Still, the at-times interminable, formulaic adventure struggles mightily to balance different tones and genres, with the biggest culprit of being the romantic angle. The goofball antics from the crew, the brooding stare of the Brewster, and a weak-willed girl offering a tenuous connection before hero and villain, are all unnecessary but at least entertaining. Some of these tropes feel recall great, cheesy action movies of the 80s, and its satisfying to watch.
When the pace slows, though, and the sentimental music starts to play, things fall apart and you look at your watch. So skilled at shooting smooth, jaw-dropping, and genuinely-thrilling action sequence (of which there are a ton here), Waugh needs not overwork the link between Tobey and his British accomplice Julia.
Those are some head-scratching moments, and for all their technological and mechanical wizardry, our team, made up of dewy-eyed Rami Malek and a smooth-talking pilot played by Scott Mescudi, tend to make stupid mistakes.
Nothing is ever in doubt though, and the journey, while still, oh so long, is unabashed fun. The carefree recklessness paired with hearts of gold make Tobey and his team easy to root for, especially when you know the results way before they do.