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Need for Speed

Disney // PG-13 // March 14, 2014
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]

Review by Jeff Nelson | posted March 14, 2014 | E-mail the Author

Even though remakes and adaptations continue to make money, a lot of moviegoers still continue to complain about why they keep getting made. The video game adaptations are another category of films that many audiences whine about, yet they'll still go see them. While the majority of these adaptations aren't given much justice, regardless of how strong the plot is, there are always exceptions to the rule. Need for Speed has been a popular racing video game for many years, but The Fast and the Furious already fulfills the love that car aficionados have for such motion pictures. Well, with that franchise focusing more on heists, this is the perfect opportunity for the next set of films to take a shot at what that series has provided. This film isn't great, but this is definitely better than your average video game adaptation.

In a small town, Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is the one to beat when it comes to racing cars. He owns an auto-shop, but is having difficulty paying the rent. An old rival by the name of Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) is offering him a huge job that could change everything. After the wealthy business associate frames Tobey, he's going to have to deal with a man's thirst for revenge. Tobey has a massive bounty on his head, as he must hurry to make the race on time and beat his long-time rival on the roads.

For those who haven't played the game from which this film is based upon, it doesn't have a plot. It's similar to Gran Turismo where it's all about the racing and the cars. This has provided writer George Gatins with the opportunity to create characters and a story from scratch, so there isn't any direct stealing from its source material. However, that isn't to say that Need for Speed is particularly unique or creative with its story-telling techniques. We've all seen this type of story several times before. Every member of the audience will know exactly where it's heading, and the character disposition isn't very much different. We never learn very much about Tobey or his travel companion, Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots), yet you'll still find yourself wanting to follow them. However, I wouldn't credit this accomplishment to the screenplay.

We all know not to expect very good writing from these type of films, but the screenplay here comes across as being nonexistent. The dialogue is noticeably horrendous. Whether Gatins is trying to make us laugh, feel for our protagonists, or get pumped up, it never works. In fact, it generally seems to fall flat on its face. Don't be surprised to find yourself laughing when the dialogue or situations aren't meant to be funny. Audiences are never given a reason to really care about what's going on. There's no way that the characters and the plot looked good on paper before any of the casting was done. Very little of it makes any actual sense.

It might sound like I hated Need for Speed, but that's not the case. However, it most certainly doesn't get any points for its screenplay, but it does for its pacing and use of excitement. This action film runs over two hours long, but it will keep your attention throughout. Director Scott Waugh and writer George Gatins understand that audiences want fast cars and intensity, and they deliver on that. Each time Tobey Marshall gets behind the wheel, you know that you're in for a good time. Whether he's running from the cops or racing on the streets, they ensure that viewers will be entirely engaged. I actually had quite a bit of fun during these sequences, as the filmmakers clearly know how to keep your attention. Now, if only they knew how to craft a story and the characters within it.

Not only is the marketing campaign trying to appeal to audiences through the fast cars, but also through the cast. With the incredibly-popular Breaking Bad over, Aaron Paul is ready to keep moving. He plays Tobey Marshall quite well. Even when the screenplay falls on its face, he carries the character and maintains the small amount of personality that the character could have with this script. Dominic Cooper is flat in the role of Dino Brewster, but this is another example of a bad screenplay not providing much for an actor to work with. Cooper has proven himself before, but the antagonist himself is far too weak to appear threatening. Hopefully he scores another antagonist role soon, but one with better material. Imogen Poots is supposed to provide the comedic relief as Tobey's passenger, Julia Maddon. She's most certainly charming and delivers on a couple chuckles. Audiences will instantly recognize Michael Keaton as the Monarch, who fits very nicely in this role, as over-the-top as it is. This is a pretty decent cast with some decent supporting roles, but none of them are really given much to do.

The most impressive element of Need for Speed comes across through its visuals. Director Scott Waugh's only other feature-length directorial experience is 2012's Act of Valor. He definitely understands how to create an intense action scene, and that is very evident here. Unlike many of the CG-filled car races found in similar action flicks, this takes a more practical approach and it oozes with intensity. It feels as if we're in the vehicle hitting top speeds with the characters. If you like fast cars and action sequences, then you'll be entirely entertained during these portions of the running time. The audio track simply supports this by making this a high-octane environment that makes every race feel like an assault on the ears. This will prove to be an incredible demo disc once it hits Blu-ray. Unfortunately, I won't be able to review the capabilities of the 3D conversion, since my press screening was held in the 2D format.

Need for Speed could have gone into so many different directions, it leaves me confused as to why screenwriter George Gatins settled on such a tired concept, especially when he spent so much time exploring it. Before considering the acceptable performances from the cast, the characters are pretty lifeless and dull. However, audiences won't be going to cinemas to see a good screenplay or well-crafted characters. It's all about the fast cars and the intensity of those scenes. Fortunately, it's a fun action film that will keep your attention throughout. Director Scott Waugh has done an incredible job with the car chases and races, as he keeps the intensity pumped up with incredible stunts and insanely loud cars. Need for Speed is in need for some serious script repairs, but it delivers on the fast cars and high-octane sequences, as were promised. If that's all you're looking for, then this is worth renting and cranking up the audio. Try not to read too much into it. What you see is what you get.



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