Synopsis: Fresh from prison, a street racer who was framed by a wealthy business associate joins a cross country race with revenge in mind. His ex-partner, learning of the plan, places a massive bounty on his head as the race begins.
Need for Speed has been a popular video game franchise for quite some time. Given that it is a franchise dealing with fast paced, illegal street racing, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood made a film based on the series. Like many of the other films adapted from video games, there isn’t anything Oscar worthy and its strength lies in the entertainment value of the film.
The plot is extremely stale and predictable. It’s easy to determine the fate of each of the characters, the motives that will drive the film, and the final outcome without much (if any) information divulged early on in the film. There’s a generic motive for revenge that accompanies many of the generic characters. Thankfully this film is more than just its story and places focus on stunt work and intermittent comic relief to keep the audience entertained.
The generic nature of the film may draw away from its depth but the acting is still able to shine through every now and then. Aaron Paul is talented and even in this static role he is able to show his abilities as an actor with dynamic range. Moments of intensity and concentration as he’s driving, moments of conflict and sadness from loss, and moments of vengeful anger are all shown in an honest and accurate depiction through Paul’s performance. Dominic Cooper and Imogen Poots support the development of Paul’s character by playing his rival and love interest. Cooper is a silent villain but in his silence he highlights his malevolent nature. The most intense moments between him and Paul are the unspoken reactions between the two, otherwise Cooper plays his stereotypical role of a selfish, wealthy antagonist. Imogen Poots is honestly a delight and the onscreen chemistry between her and Paul is definitely there. If the characters weren’t so generically written, I might have been interested in seeing how their relationship develops. The moments between them are awkwardly appeasing with each flirtatious jab and moment of sincerity.
The comic relief of the film is shared by the performances of Michael Keaton, Scott Mescudi, and Rami Malek. Rami Malek is the eccentric buddy that we’re always laughing at and Scott Mescudi is the “wise guy” that always has a quip to go with any situation despite its level of urgency. Michael Keaton is practically the narrator of the film being that he is the one responsible for the film’s main race. He adds continual commentary from beginning to end, which consists of a plethora of chuckles and a few laugh out loud moments. Outside of the driving scenes, the comic relief would probably be some of the best moments throughout the film.
The main reason for seeing this film is the driving and racing. Director Scott Waugh has a background as a stunt coordinator and it definitely shows in Need for Speed. He prided himself in stepping away from CGI and focusing on actual closed street driving. The camera angles and live action racing builds suspense and excitement at an intense level that gets your heart pounding. In these races, you don’t see any suped up Honda Civics, you see the elite of elite sports cars going head to head in a dangerous, fast-paced competition. On top of the racing, the director took a note from the games and added police chases in as added suspense. As if racing against ruthless, experienced drivers wasn’t enough, all racers have to deal with police in hot pursuit. The drifting, wrecks, jumps, and explosions are all shot in a way that made me enjoy the film much more than I thought I would. It may be that I’m so used to seeing CGI that viewing actual stuntwork in this type of film differentiates it from other racing films like this.
Overall I would say this is one of the top films based on a video game thus far. Given that there has yet to be a video game film that has received critical acclaim, I would say that statement speaks only to entertainment value. The plot and character development are very weak and act as nothing more than a transition into the action. If you’re a car person, I could say with confidence that you would appreciate this film but for the avid cinephile, you could probably wait until it’s out of theaters.
Need For Speed – 5 out of 10
One of the Better Video Game Adaptations…