Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Need for Speed

Ok so firstly let’s tackle the elephant in the room. Yes, Need for Speed is a video game adaptation, and no, movies like this do not have a good track record. Video game adaptations have become a laughing stock thanks to some truly god awful films like Max Payne and Alone in the Dark. Going into Need for Speed I was sceptical because let’s face it, the games it’s based on don’t even have a plot. Boy was I surprised.

Need for Speed stars Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman Tobey Marshall, a strong and silent mechanic who competes in illegal street races on the side. To save his failing garage he and his group of quirky friends make a deal with Tobey’s rival, Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), to refurbish a legendary Mustang. Of course, Dino is evil so things quickly go downhill. A horrible, spoilery accident during a tense race against Dino leads to Tobey being imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit.

Now the first half an hour acts as a sort of prologue to introduce the characters and get the plot moving. Once Tobey leaves prison the plot just sort of… stops. Not that it really affects the movie however. After the first act, the rest of the film sees Tobey hauling ass across the country to prove his innocence and race against Dino in the secret “De Leon” street race.

We’ll start with the good points. The trailer for Need for Speed has Aaron Paul driving around with haunting orchestral music behind him giving the film a real classy feel and the whole movie is like that. It’s not as douchey as other, similar films about street racing (looking at you early Fast and Furious films). Also, the action scenes are just stunning. The film prides itself on using (nearly) no CGI whatsoever and it’s all the better for it. The races and car chases are tense and they feel real because they ARE real. When you see a million dollar car getting wrecked, you’re seeing it for real and this really pushes the film above the rest of dumb, forgettable action films and makes it something else entirely. The best action scene in my opinion begins with Tobey and passenger Julia (Imogen Poots) being chased down by shotgun wielding bounty hunters and ends with the two of them driving off of a cliff. The direction overall may be nothing too special, but when the characters are in a car the direction is really rather good.

Aaron Paul is good as Tobey. He brings some of the charm with him that made audiences fall in love with him in Breaking Bad but he’s more of the strong, silent type in this. He’s good though and brings a great amount of emotion when the story calls for it. The supporting cast are a mixed bag. Some are pointless and serve ABSOLUTELY no purpose whatsoever to the plot, some are walking clichés and some…well some are Micheal Keaton. He plays the mysterious and eccentric DJ Monarch, and his role is to more or less add his own special brand of commentary to races and the movie in general. His performance is one of the most phoned-in performances I’ve seen recently, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad. It’s very obvious that he didn’t film any of his scenes with any of the other actors, delivering his lines from a command centre somewhere. Honestly he probably filmed all of his scenes in one day, but he hams it up so much you might actually believe he’s having fun and it’s defiantly fun watching him. Another strong character is the wacky Finn played by Rami Malek. One scene sees him stripping naked and walking through an office building and is actually quite funny.

Does it work as a video game adaptation? Some scenes reminded me strongly of racing through a forest in Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 or escaping police in Most Wanted, so in that regard, yes. But it also contains the exact thing that makes the games so entertaining, stupidly fast cars and adrenaline-fuelled racing.

The dialogue in this movie is nothing special, it gets the job done but it won’t win any awards. The same goes for the plot and most of the acting. But the action scenes are just so phenomenal you forget about everything else. The real cars, lack of CGI and awesomely hammy performance from Michael Keaton pushes this perhaps otherwise forgettable action film to the top of the pile. It won’t change your life, but it’s the most stupidly entertaining two and a half hours I’ve had in a while. Need for Speed is the best kind of turn-your-brain-off popcorn entertainment.

Need for Speed just scrapes four stars. A thoroughly entertaining, if pretty stupid, film.


Jack Bumby

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