Scott Waugh‘s Need for Speed is the latest popular video game series to translate over to film with little anticipation, yet enough to make it a worthwhile viewing. Need for Speed is no different than most modern action/car films, simply meaning that it has lots of adrenaline-fueled racing to back its brainless intentions and simple plot. Director Scott Waugh does one thing absolutely right though; he chooses to mostly use real cars and practical effects versus computer-animated CGI effects and the results are impressive and mostly enjoyable.
Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) use to be a hot shot racer and the owner of a well-respected body shop. All of that went up in flames as his friend literally burned to death after a horrible car crash, which was purposely caused by the shady and untrustworthy Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper). The two have a history, but Tobey decided to put it aside in order to handle business and the result cost his friend his life and Tobey two years in prison.
Now he’s out and now he wants revenge. Not revenge by way of a gun or a knife, but revenge from behind the wheel of a very fast automobile. Tobey wants to defeat Dino in an infamous street race, while also proving his innocence in the process.
Need for Speed is your basic revenge story infused with metal and mayhem and super-charged to speeds over 200 miles per hour. Director Scott Waugh (co-director of Act of Valor) takes his many years as a stunt director and puts them to the test in a film that’s a technical achievement in stunt work and special effects. Need for Speed boasts many impressive scenes that involve real cars crashing into each other, with real stuntmen behind the wheel.
That alone is worthy of high praise, especially in an age where digital effects by way of computers tend to replace most car sequences. This immediately makes Need for Speed something that’s that much more enjoyable, because it feels real and carries actual weight, despite the story’s shortcomings and dumber moments. And trust me, this film is loaded with stupidity and questionable logic, but that simply makes it a brainless popcorn flick that’s looking for nothing more than to entertain you for a few hours.
And it mostly does that. Waugh’s direction is behind-the-wheel heavy, meaning that lots and lots of the film takes place in a car or around one and that’s exactly how it should be. Need for Speed is a car junkies delight and a film that should rightfully please casual action fans. There’s not a whole lot going on, plot wise, but there’s enough to keep your eyes open.
Aaron Paul leads the film with an odd batch of charisma that comes across as a mix between a stoned out surfer and a slightly-challenged or just downright confused mechanic. Tobey is a smart and mostly quiet character, but when he does let loose a few lines of dialog he almost immediately regrets it, because what he says makes little sense and the people around him either know that and are too nice to speak up or they truly believe that what he says has some logic to it and that right there is more terrifying than any car explosion.
Imogen Poots and Dominic Cooper slide in under the radar with two supporting performances that do just that. They support Paul when he needs a little flavor (or a smile that actually fits the given scene) and Poots isn’t exactly horrible on the eyes, so there’s that. Seriously, Waugh’s film focuses very little on its supporting players, which makes little sense when Tobey is mostly a mute driver.
But Need for Speed isn’t really a film that’s worried about its story or its characters. No, this is a film that’s primary goal is to impress you with car chases and crashes and it does a fine job hitting those marks. It drags when the plot calls for some padding, but it quickly shifts gears and gets back on the road when the dialog has more than refueled the story for another cross country drive.
Need for Speed isn’t going to be winning any awards for best screenplay or performances. But it should blow your socks off with the amount of on-screen car mayhem. Cars get flipped upside down, blown up into a million pieces and taken to extreme speeds, with stuntmen behind the wheels and sometimes on the cars themselves. That makes Waugh’s film a partial success that manages to take a familiar name and plug it into another medium with enough attention to detail to please the video game fan base and enough easy-going action to cater to the popcorn munchers.
Need for Speed – 6.5/10