John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

Need for Speed

Genre: Action and Adventure

Director: Scott Waugh

Cast: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Scott Mescudi, Ramon Rodriguez, Michael Keaton, Rami Malek, Dakota Johnson, Harrison Gilbertson

MPAA-Rating: PG-13

Release Date: March 14th, 2014

For those who thought The Fast and the Furious films were too realistic, Need for Speed is the movie for you. The car drama boasts blatantly obvious dialogue, clichéd characters and a lack of reality that would be astonishing in most other features. What it also boasts is a quirky sense of silliness that despite its flaws, kept the movie— pardon the pun— racing along.

As the story begins, Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is a struggling mechanic who enjoys racing cars with his buddies late at night. Like Vin Diesel’s character in The Fast and the Furious franchise, he’s a loner with a tight crew who loves cars— repairing them, watching them and racing them. He has close friends and angry enemies. In this case, his rival is Dino (Dominic Cooper), a vengeful meathead who has a history with Tobey and wants to undermine him every chance he can.

The two begrudgingly work together to fix a broken-down car and sell it for a couple of million dollars but when tragedy strikes, Dino betrays Tobey. Dino rises to success in California while the naïve Tobey serves two years in prison, which are quickly glossed over here to make way for more driving sequences. After he’s released, Tobey vows to destroy Dino and the De Leon race— a mysterious California race coming up in less than 48 hours— feels like the perfect opportunity.

The whole enterprise of the picture seems to be set up as male wish fulfillment. From a two year prison stint being glossed over like it’s nothing (only makes Tobey tougher!) to a pilot who likes to go by the nickname Maverick (Top Gun, anyone?), the feature is appealing to a predominantly male crowd who like cars and love fast ones. If that wasn’t enough, another male character opts to quit his job by stripping off all of his clothes and kissing a female employee he’s always wanted to.

When asked why he decides to take off all of his clothes to quit in such a over-the-top fashion, he responds by saying that he never wants to go back to that office before. Well, that makes as much sense as everything else in this film does.

At first, the absence of logic and reality served as a strong deterrent for me and I can understand those who view some of the race sequences as obnoxious. When the races take place during the day— and many of them do— innocent drivers and passengers are driven off the road and injured. It’s hard not to feel for those people affected by these jocks racing around town for kicks.

Need for Speed is one of those features that you dislike if you think too hard about it. You have to drop reality off on the side of the road like an unworthy passenger to appreciate its messy plot holes. But it’s an enjoyable ride, if you’re up for it. Despite its overlong 130 minute running time, I enjoyed watching the races, Paul’s portrayal of a thoughtful loner,  and especially Imogen Poots, who plays an Englishwoman who escorts Tobey on his road trip from the East Coast to California. She seems to be loving her character and subtly encourages the audiences to love the experience as well.

Clearly, the writers— who based this whole script on a video game— didn’t feel the need for reality here. They just felt the “need for speed” and I, for one, can’t blame them.

Review by: John Hanlon