SYNOPSIS: Based on the most successful racing video game franchise ever, Need for Speed is Aaron ‘Breaking Bad’ Paul’s first lead in a feature. He plays Tobey Marshall, a speed-demon mechanic, jailed for a crime he did not commit. Out of the hoosegow with revenge against adversary Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) on his mind, he finagles a spot at the De Leon, a high-octane underground race that makes the Cannonball Run look like a Go-Kart sprint. You just know it’s only a matter of time until someone says, “We’ll settle this behind the wheel.” Between him and the race, however, are miles of hard road, bounty hunters and police. Will his dreams of racing and revenge come true? Or will his need for speed go unfulfilled?
Richard: 3 Stars
Steve: 2 Stars
Richard: Steve, remember the Mazda commercials that were on a few years ago? I felt like the kid from those ads was sitting on my shoulder whispering “zoom, zoom” into my ear for the entire running time of The Hot Wheels Movie, er…. Need for Speed. This is a fast paced car race movie that zips along as quickly as you’d hope a movie with the word speed in the title would, but character wise, it’s not quite as fast or furious as you might like. The cars are the stars, while the characters are largely left in the dust. What did you think?
Steve: Yes, the way they’re upstaged by the racing sequences, the term “vehicular manslaughter” could easily apply to the actors. Sure, Aaron Paul showed us he had chops in Breaking Bad but that only makes the choice of playing a gravelly-voiced, vengeance-seeking street car racer all the more curious. After all, as much as Need For Speed tries to design depth in its characters, nobody in the thriller rises above conveniently routine. Or all that interesting.
RC: I liked the race scenes. They feel authentic and by and large done by brave speed demon stunt drivers without the use of CGI. They’re exciting, pedal-to-the-metal sequences that put the audience in the driver’s seat. You have to wonder about glorifying the romance of reckless street racing, but the movie isn’t a commercial for vehicular mayhem. There are some wild rides, but there are also consequences for many of the drivers and their need for speed. I just wish the characters were stronger. It says something when the movie’s most interesting character—the eccentric millionaire The Monarch, played by Michael Keaton—never gets behind the wheel of a car.
SG: He was definitely working the same oddball over-the-top angles as Nicolas Cage. Imogen Poots (That Awkward Moment) was appealing enough as a British assistant of the car’s owner who hitchhikes along with Paul for the nationwide ride. However, I couldn’t help thinking how contrived the entire plot was. Then again, I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising considering the story was culled from a video game—albeit a very successful video game.
RC: Need for Speed isn’t Downton Abbey. It’s a car crazy story where characters take a backseat to the action, but if you know what a Two Lane Grasshopper is, then you’ll probably get a kick out of the driving scenes.
SG: This movie definitely isn’t for graduates of Juilliard’s drama program. Its for high-octane gearheads who want to stuff their faces with over-buttered popcorn and watch innocent bystanders and cops get taken out in the careless (but cunningly choreographed) act of illegal street racing. It does a fine job there but I’m not sure I’ll remember much else about Need for Speed by tomorrow morning.