Review: NEED FOR SPEED (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Review: NEED FOR SPEED (2014)

While bumpy and sluggish, the breathtaking car stunts and some of the entertaining casts made NEED FOR A SPEED a worthwhile car-chase movie.

Throughout the years since 2001, it was THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS series that currently dominated the car-racing genre. Now Electronic Arts (EA) tries to bank on that success by unleashing NEED FOR SPEED into the big screen for the first time ever. After all, we are talking about the most successful racing video-game series of all time.

When small-time mechanic Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is framed for causing the death of his young protege, Pete (Harrison Gilbertson) and ends up in jail for two years, he sets his sights on vengeance against his racing rival Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper). Once he's out of the prison, Tobey is forced to partner up with beautiful car broker Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots) since he desperately needs a car to race. Meanwhile, his loyal crew -- Joe (Ramon Rodriguez), Finn (Rami Malek) and Benny (Scott Mescudi) -- help him overcoming all the obstacles (dodging cops and such) as Tobey needs to race against the time to reach the destination within 45 hours for the De Leon, a high-stakes underground race organized by Monarch (Michael Keaton) where Dino will be participating as well. 

As evident in 2012's ACT OF VALOR, director Scott Waugh knows a lot about action. And the best thing is, he does them as practical as possible without relying heavily on CGI. As a result, the car stunts are simply stunning to look at. Aided by Waugh's and Paul Rubell's solid editing and Shane Hurlbut's impressive cinematography (with extra credits goes to Michael Kelem and David Nowell for aerial photography), Waugh has certainly worked very hard to ensure the viewers feel as if they are part of the car action. Kudos also goes to the impeccable sound design that captured the throbbing engines for each muscle/sports cars (e.g. Shelby GT500 that Tobey drives across different states). Simply to put, all the technical aspects of this movie are first-rate.

As the brooding and cool-mannered Tobey, Aaron Paul's first feature-movie leading role after his excellent run with the award-winning TV's Breaking Bad, displays quite a decent performance here. As the two of Tobey's team members, Benny and Finn, both Scott Mescudi and Rami Malek shared equal limelight as the movie's comic relief. But of all the actors here, it was Imogen Poots who steals the show as the English-speaking Julia. She is especially fun to watch for with her mix of feisty and quirky attitudes.
The spectacular car chase scene where Tobey and Julia facing danger against a bunch of bounty hunters, before they end up leaping the car off the cliff and left hanging upside down by a helicopter.
For a movie that carries a title as obvious as NEED FOR SPEED, you certainly expect this one as a fast-paced actioner. But at 130 minutes, it's a pity that the movie drags a lot with too many melodramatic moments and even awkward romance. Most of the faults lies on George Gatins' sloppily-written debut screenplay.

Some of the other cast here fails to leave a satisfying impression. As the main villain Dino, Dominic Cooper is instantly forgettable while Dakota Johnson is wasted in her thankless role as Tobey's ex-girlfriend, Anita. Then there's Michael Keaton in his role as Monarch. It's kind of odd that he spends all the time giving enthusiastic commentary like a deejay during the race and we don't get a chance to see him expand, say, dealing with other characters. His existence in this movie struck me as if Keaton is just showing off how lively he can speaks his dialogue and nothing else matters.

Despite the impressive car stunts throughout the movie, the finale which takes place during the De Leon underground race feels somewhat anticlimactic. So, if you expect Waugh goes "all-hell-breaks-loose" kind of adrenaline rush in the finale, it's best to keep your expectation low.

NEED FOR SPEED may have been not the ultimate car-chase/car-racing movie that the filmmakers hoped for, it remains adequate enough for a genre movie like this. On the side note, don't bother watching this in 3D version since there's nothing really 3D worth shouting for.

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