Culture Magazine

Movie Review – Need for Speed (2014)

By Manofyesterday

Okay, so I’m not a petrolhead and I’ve only played one of the Need for Speed games, so I’m not going to be talking about all the different cars here or whether the models and/or locations were used in any of the games. Need for Speed, based on the popular games franchise published by EA, follows the story of Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) who enters a cross-country race to get revenge on a rival, Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper). Marshall is joined by the feisty Englishwoman Julia (Imogen Poots) and his team in a race for vengeance. 

This film is a bit sketchy. It takes a while for the plot to kick into gear (pun intended) so the part of the film feels disconnected from the rest. The first race is ponderous, tedious and it has no tension so my hopes were low for the rest of the film. Thankfully they improved, but when you’re trying to wow you’re audience it’s not good to start with a race that was completely devoid of suspense. There was far too much tyre-screeching as well (I realize this makes me sound like an old man, but it was so bad it felt like it was cutting through my brain). Then Tobey gets a proposal from Dino to restore a rare car, which they say is going to take a long time and lots of effort but could net Tobey $500,000. And then……the car is built. Come on! There was a perfect place for a montage!!!! 

But no, the film rushes through this part to get the actual story going, and I have to wonder if there wasn’t a more economical way to do this because a lot of the stakes at the start of the film aren’t actually resolved. In fact many loose threads are left hanging and it’s the kind of film where it seems everything has ended well for the protagonist but when you take time to think about it, it’s not so clear cut. 

The other races were cool and there was plenty of dynamism involved, and some great stunts. The locations were excellent as well and the cross-country nature of the film gave the opportunity to show some gorgeous landscapes. I liked the cast for the most part. The camaraderie between Tobey’s team was genuine (although at times it felt a little forced) and entertaining, although I found Benny (Scott Mescudi) somewhat grating, although that was due to the script not the actor. There was also a painfully embarrassing scene in an office, which I don’t even want to think about. The chemistry between Paul and Poots (sounds like it should be an old English kids’ show) was good and I liked Poots’ character. Dominic Cooper was suitably slimy as the bad guy. The highlight though was Michael Keaton who had a lot of fun with his role.

The main problem is that the film thinks it’s a lot smarter than it actually is. It tries to give emotional weight to the plot but then rushes through certain parts so aside from a few moments the characters aren’t really allowed to breathe. The film could have been streamlined a lot because the core of the story was pretty simple but they added on all this extra stuff and it just felt like padding. I also don’t know why this film was in 3D (well, I do know, because it makes more money). I didn’t feel like it utilized the 3D at all. 

Ultimately I think it’s a decent movie and it’s just about entertaining enough, however it’s betrayed by a weak script and I don’t think it’s worthy to see in the cinema unless you’re desperate. The problems with the film linger long after it’s finished and unfortunately that’s the only lasting impression it leaves. 

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