At the Movies: Need For Speed

I first became aware of “Need for Speed” while watching the Super Bowl. I suspect I am not alone.

My first thought on seeing the commercial for “Need for Speed” was — Do we really need another ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise? I suspect I am not alone.

Having seen “Need for Speed” I can state with certainty that no, we don’t need this film to become a franchise. I suspect I will not be alone in that assessment after others see it.

Need_For_Speed_New_International_Poster_JPostersBased on a series of video games, “Need for Speed” stars Aaron Paul as Tobey Marshall, a talented driver and mechanic who never left home for the big time, unlike his rival Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper). Dino became a professional race-car driver while Tobey owns an auto repair shop that is out of money.

There’s a lot of negative history between the two men that is often hinted at but never spelled out. Desperate for money, Tobey agrees to customize a car for Dino. One day Tobey and his young sidekick show up at Dino’s pad where he challenges them to a race using three specialized cars in his garage. (I would go into more detail but I know nothing about cars).

The race ends in tragedy, Tobey winds up in jail and Dino uses his power and influence to get off scot-free. Two years later, Tobey leaves prison determined to get his revenge on Dino by beating him at a secret, illegal street race.

No, really. That’s the plot. I did say it was based on a video game.

First the good stuff: There’s some nice desert scenery and neat stunts and the cars crash-and-roll with great relish. Sometimes you feel like you’re in the car as it’s crashing and doing somersaults. Michael Keaton is somewhat entertaining as the eccentric host of the mystery race.

Now for the bad stuff:

Tobey’s crew is a trio of tiresome comedy relief types, the worst offender being the guy (Scott Mescudi) who flies the aircraft that spots trouble for Tobey as he’s tearing up the streets. If only he were half as funny as director Scott Waugh seems to think he is.

The love interest (Imogen Poots) is your typical dumb blonde who’s not really dumb at all and can somehow drive a souped-up automobile through treacherous mountain roads like a pro despite being chased by bad guys shooting at her.

Dino isn’t evil enough to be entertaining.

The movie just gets more and more ridiculous as it goes along. And sure, normally I would be fine with that — it’s an action movie not a documentary. But the central problem is that the film wants so badly for us to see Tobey as the selfless hero — and he’s not. He goes on a reckless road trip from New York to California, destroying property and putting dozens of lives at risk. It’s hard to believe that people weren’t killed as a result of his high-speed hijinks.

It’s even more absurd when he goes back at the end to pull Dino out of some flaming wreckage because, well, that’s what heroes do. But what about all the innocent police officers (not to mention civilians) whose cars crashed and burned as a result of Tobey’s actions and he didn’t go back to check on them?

The 3D conversion isn’t worth your money either. But then there’s no need to spend any money on “Need for Speed.”

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