Need for Speed

Mar 13, 2014

If one observes the maxim that critiquing should always be based on a product’s intended user and its purpose, this review of Need for Speed would consider only a 13-year old boy’s perspective. Can’t do it, sorry. It will have to take both adult and teen expectations into account.

There was also a TV series called Need for Speed, though most emphasis recently has been on the various video games of that name. The movie is essentially a spin-off promo for the latter. By the way, you won’t find a Ferrari on screen because that company does not sponsor the games. There is, however, a villain named Dino (Dominic Cooper), which seems to be a dig at the home of the prancing horse given that Enzo Ferrari’s son was named Dino. Anyway, on to the show!

Tobey Marshall’s race garage, once owned by his father, is under threat of repossession by the bank. There we have the first motivation, and it is the cue for the shop crew to engage in some illegal street racing in their muscle cars to raise money and incidentally offer some character delineation, but neither is very satisfying.

Gruff Tobey (Aaron Paul) might have asked his friends for financial help, but they seem to have invested everything in their cars and trucks, including one equipped with every bit of techno-wizardry known. Strangely for mechanics, none is ever seen getting their hands dirty working on a car – ever.

There’s a wide ethnic spread in the hero-team, by the way, but you will wait in vain for an Asian face to appear, which is odd given their strong involvement in the real modified car scene in the US. Perhaps in Need for Speed 2?

The next stage is when a deal is done with devilish Dino, in order to make a properly big pile of money. Amazingly, that works, but Tobey foolishly bets his share of the spoils on the outcome of an impromptu race that results in a death. That is essentially because of Dino, but only Tobey gets the blame. There we have the second motivation: the grudge.

You know where this is heading. There will be a bigger stake once Tobey gets out of jail, and there will be a love interest, though sadly without much chemistry, in the person of English girl Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots). There will be mayhem on the road akin to that in the computer games, where lots of crashes occur and lives are risked willy-nilly so that we can have graphic shots of fast cars doing next to impossible things – plus a couple that actually are impossible.

And if you want a real laugh, focus on Michael Keaton as Monarch, whose only real function seems to be to add exposition and a race-call for truly thick viewers.

Forget the corny machismo-driven plot that has holes big enough to lose a bus in, and stop counting all the glaring continuity issues. It’s a teen boy movie through and through. All that action is the complete rationale of the movie, regardless of the many dodgy bits. Petrol-heads get to hear exotic cars being revved before they (or dressed-up look-alikes) are smashed to smithereens.

Is this movie fit for purpose? You bet. Just ask a 13-year old boy. Mine said: “I can’t wait to buy it!”

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