Well, that was an experience. A few reviews back I talked about movies that were better than they had any right to be. Let’s talk for a moment about one of them before I get into this one.
This movie has an amazing cast of actors and actresses you know now and in some cases didn’t know then. It has so called A-list actors and at the time some true unknowns like this guy Chris Pine and some other schmuck named Ryan Reynolds. It has a plot that’s so convoluted its Tarantino-esque but is simple and honest at the same time. It knows what it is, tries to be more and actually succeeds. It has beautiful action you get to see, character driven moments that work incredibly well and ridiculous moments that make you wonder what the director was smoking at the time. It ties together almost seamlessly and you need to watch every moment for fear of missing something. To steal from that overblown director Nolan, “it has the ending we need, not the ending we want.” Actually thats a lie it has both the ending we want and need. Even the alternate ending while bad ass isn’t as epic as what we get. We need more movies like that.
Avoid the sequel its garbage.
Need for Speed is *not* that level of greatness. Let me get that out of the way now. It is, however, better than it should be. I really don’t know how. I’ve seen all the films that can be seen as inspiration to it in the last decade and a half; such as Fast and Furious (all), Torque, Gone in sixty seconds (yes I know its a remake), Death Race(another remake I know). I’ve seen some of the older films that drove this particular film (no pun intended), Bullit, Smokey and the Bandit, Mad Max and the Wraith (hey I reviewed that one). They loved Bullit enough to show it on a drive in during this movie. Yes, I noticed a movie I hadn’t seen and still knew what it was. Steve McQueen is that iconic.
Back to the point, the movie draws its inspiration from all of these sources and of course the video game that truly it is actually based on from EA games. The plot is as thin as they get and if you blink you miss it, but has a nice working man’s quality to it that I think the writers were able to bring. John Gatins (Coach Carter, Reel Steel, Flight) and I can only assume his brother George (this is his only writing credit), clearly have a love affair with the movies I mentioned. They gave us the working class family that Fast and Furious did, they made them fun and a little interesting.
The story revolves around Tobey Marshall (Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul) a young man who inherits his fathers garage and is trying to make ends meet for him and his friends. He gets involved with someone he knows he shouldn’t in an attempt to make things comfortable for that adopted family. Things of course go wrong. When he finally gets out of prison he manages to get himself entered into an illegal race against his archrival Dino Brewster (Captain America’s Dominic Cooper) run by an eccentric millionaire (Michael Keaton).
One thing that can be said is director Scott Waugh knows how to shoot action. After giving us Act of Valor a few years back, Stunt Man turned director knows a thing or two about making a shot look good. Apparently it doesn’t matter if its a car or a man he shoots it well. He lets his actors have their quiet moments and then ramps the action. I was never into cars as a girl, I was all about jets and naval ships. That said his decisions on cars were truly works of art. I was surprised to know some of the makers and models here, the Shelby of course being a beautiful standout. Granted I know for fact Ford pretty much paid for this movie to be a commercial for the mustang. I accept that. I don’t mind movies marketing to me when the product placement makes sense.
Now, obviously we need to talk about the acting for a moment. Whew. Ok. So. Um. I’ve never seen Breaking Bad, so I don’t know what Aaron Paul is capable of but based on the fans of the show it was more than this. This had the amazing disappearing /reappearing accent. An apparent inability to look anyone in the eyes directly or talk above a mumble. I know that he may have been trying to channel some of those iconic drivers of the past but it mostly comes across silly. Dominic Cooper who did an amazing job in the Devils Double possibly suffered brain trauma or his contract said screw subtlety. The word villain is pretty much tattooed on his forehead. Rain Malek (Twilight Breaking Dawn, Oldboy), Ramon Rodriguez (Battle Los angeles, and the thankfully short lived Charlies Angels), and Scott Mescudi (aka Kid Cudi) play Marshalls friends. Each one is surprisingly different and interesting. There’s enough banter and charisma between them that I felt like I was watching actual friends.
Then there is Imogen Poots (Fright Night, Centurion) as Julia Maddon who is surprisingly fun in her role. I acknowledge the fact she’s the female stereotype for the modern car film. In the 60’s to 80’s the idea of a female driver who could keep up with the guys was all but anathema. Now when she gets behind the wheel and shows she can hold her own it is the new stereotype. Death Race and Fast and Furious both give us this new “strong” female who is into cars and can handle them. She’s beautiful and car smart, if only she was a character unto herself and not just the new fantasy for the boys. I will however, take the victory in that we do have a strong female who isn’t just eye candy and thank them for taking steps in the right direction. Imogen brings the right amount of charisma to it to make it work and is generally more interesting than Paul.
There isn’t much to talk in the technicals. The cars are beautiful. The stunts are clean. The pacing is hit and miss and when it runs a little long in the tooth some times you feel it. There’s a few editing tweaks where I can tell they are shooting at different times of night and day within what is supposed to be the same shot, but thats really the worst of it. Where there is CG in the races, its exceedingly clean and I will again thank them and move on.
This thing won’t win oscars. It also isn’t razzie worthy either. It actually tries to be a little more than fast cars doing insane things on the road. It doesn’t always succeed but certainly tried with a lot of heart and that definitely gives it some mileage over most of the garbage we’ve been fed this year. The Heart is important folks and surprisingly this one had it.
The movie overall is “Ok”. I was entertained more than I expected, but I went in expecting the worst (Hercules) and got something better. I smiled few times and was for the most part entertained.
If you were the least bit curious, see it for budget pricing, matinee at most. The 3D is cute, but not worth it. Otherwise, it can wait for Redbox and Netflix.
The truly best I can say is it was not the crime against humanity that was expected.
Depending on the weekend I may be able to get a Veronica Mars review in later. I should have my digital download from the Kickstarter soon. If not next week you get Divergent, Hollywood’s next attempt to bank on the teen novel genre.