I went into Need for Speed knowing it was a movie based on a video game property.  A hugely successful EA property at that, which has sold over 140 million copies.  First appearing in 1994, the series has over 20 games spanning 20 years, but it’s still just a video game movie none-the-less.  Video game film adaptions have not been very successful in the past.  Keeping this in mind, I didn’t have huge expectations going into my screening of the film.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much I thoroughly enjoyed the film and was entertained throughout its entire 130 minute run-time.

Aaron Paul (coming off his incredible run on Breaking Bad) stars as Tobey Marshall, a small time mechanic who owns a garage in upstate New York.  Inheriting the garage from his father Tobey, who also street races, Tobey is having trouble making the payments to the bank.  With an opportunity for Tobey to make a quick $5,000 he and his team, consisting of friends Benny (Scott Mescudi), little Pete (Harrison Gilbertson), Finn (Rami Malek), and Joe (Ramón Rodríguez), enter a local street race to win some cash.  At the race Tobey sees his rival Dino Brewster who made it all the way to Indy, while Tobey never made it out of his hometown.  Tobey is the better driver but things just haven’t gone his way, despite the fact that he has an incredible amount of potential.  Dino comes to Tobey after the race with an opportunity to fix his rare Shelby/Mustang with the opportunity to take 25% of the profits once it’s sold.  In a bad situation, the crew must accept the job.  From there as you can imagine things don’t go according to plan.  Hell bent on revenge, Tobey sets out to earn a spot in the Monarch’s (Michael Keaton) underground invite only race.  Need for Speed keeps the story briskly-paced with what some may view as predictable but intense action scenes, and a plot crafted well enough to execute everything that comes with turning this successful game franchise into an exciting relatively grounded film.

The lack of Hollywood films about cars will lead most to compare Need For Speed with the successful Fast and Furious franchise.  This isn’t a comparison I would personally try and connect, as I look at them as completely different films with very different intentions.  Fast and Furious started as a movie mostly about cars but always had the element of crime, guns, heists, and as the series went on it focused less and less on the car aspect.  I respect what the series has done, but won’t elude to it anymore, as Need For Speed does not attempt to emulate that, and instead focuses on the cars, even if it leaves the plot feeling a bit weak.

The Shelby Mustang is the featured car in the film, but this could be seen as a fault as the film often feels like a huge Mustang commercial.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just feels a bit too commercial at times.  That aside, the cars in the film are great to see.   The action and all the car races use practical effects, choosing more complicated shots over the much overused CGI seen today.  By using the practical effects and real cars, the viewer is thrown into the races and with the use of 3D it really brings you into the action.  Crashes hurt, and when a car is crashing or close to it your heart will be racing.  The filmmakers did a great job incorporating the aspects of the game which make it a fun, everlasting series.  From running from police to the actual races, Need for Speed delivers in bringing the audience into the action, and in bringing the game aspects into the film in mostly believable ways.  As long as you’re willing to dispel a bit of disbelief, Need for Speed will deliver the action race fans have been waiting for.

Michael Keaton_Need for SpeedAaron Paul delivers in giving a performance in which he must display emotions on the full spectrum (much like in Breaking Bad and no, he doesn’t say “Bitch”).  His supporting cast is not as compelling, but do a good job supporting Paul and keep the film going.  Michael Keaton is as comfortable as ever playing Monarch, who for his entire time in the film is behind the computer offering his commentary on the situations happening.  It would have been great if Keaton interacted more with the other actors, but it’s still great to see him having fun on screen.  Kid Cudi provides a majority of the laughs, and it feels like he ad-libbed many of his lines.  Dominic Cooper was a bit stale as the villain Dino Brewster, but luckily he wasn’t on screen for too long to take away anything from the film.  By the end of the film you truly hate him, so in a way he succeeded.

If audiences go into Need for Speed knowing what they are getting, they will come out happy and entertained.  There are enough great performances in the film to mask the weaker ones.  The acting and plot are not the real stars of the film, as the action scenes steal the show.  Coming off 2012′s Act of Valor, Scott Waugh brought a realness that was necessary for this film to work.  The lack of CGI is a huge bright spot for the film, and while not the deepest film, audiences will enjoy the ride.

Need for Speed stars Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Michael Keaton, and Scott Mescudi, and is now playing in 2d, 3d, and other large screen formats everywhere.

About the Author

Peter Towe
Peter Towe
A graduate of UMASS Boston, I have successfully put off getting a "real" job, and continue to watch, produce, review, and obsess over movies. I lived in Boston while I completed my degree, and now live in Chicago trying the improv thing.