Need for Speed is an awesome movie. And, not in the way you call Patrick Swayze’s Road House “awesome” after a couple of beers. It’s a film that legitimately has so many exhilarating moments, you’ll want to watch it again as soon as the credits start rolling.
Don’t get me wrong though. The film has plenty of corn and cheese to go around. Luckily, it all happens within the first 30 minutes.
It’s not necessarily the kind of hackneyed goofiness that pits itself as a foreboding sinking feeling. It’s more so a kind of entertainment you’d find at a theme park during one of those “wild wild west” live performances with stunts, exploding gas valves and fire. You’re fully aware of how gagged up the dialogue sounds, but you’re having no problem admitting how much fun you’re having.
That may sound like a backhanded compliment towards the production, but it’s not. In fact, that’s a major pro and a great start for Need for Speed.
Scott Waugh’s film has a couple of elements going against it. For one, a video game franchise is attached to it – never a real confident plus. Secondly, this is a starring debut for Aaron Paul. No matter how much positivity the actor is riding on from his impressive work on TV’s Breaking Bad, this vehicle (no pun intended) still comes across as Hollywood striking on his popularity while the iron’s still hot.
For this action film to draw us in as much as it does during those initial introductions to the brawn, the babes, and the beautiful cars is a compliment to how this movie has been made. It’s a film here to deliver the goods, and it does so instantly with an intense race through the night down narrow streets.
As audiences are jiving with the idea of accepting Need for Speed as a guilty pleasure, that’s when Waugh’s film pulls somewhat of an ole’ “bait n’ switch”.
Need for Speed pulls off a gradual and calculated transition. It smoothly goes from being a glitzy cheese-fest and becomes a movie you’ll be proud to take in as a stand alone ode to classic car films.
Using very minimal CGI on added flames to explosions, Need for Speed has car chases that are all practical. From luscious locations to tight windy tracks to the glamourous cars. The production has gone out of its way to make sure it’s not bringing the usual computer-animated spiel to its motor head audience – it has paid off big time.
By giving movie goers such a vivid look at real-time racing utilizing point-of-view angles and high rise shots, Need for Speed doesn’t beat around any bushes and has us on the edge of our seats. Each race has taken a considerable amount of time to plan and film, yet we’re not distracted by any of it. We’re too busy eagerly awaiting who wins.
The film pays tribute to those older car flicks without beating the audience over the head with obvious influences. Gamers will also be dazzled by how committed the production was to sticking to the loosely structured games. Foggy surroundings and treks through deep redwoods look as if they’ve been lifted straight from animated escapism.
How does Paul work out in the leading role? Fantastically. The fetching star – as well as the rest of the cast – know exactly what type of movie they’re in. But, just like their keen director, they want to bring more to the table.
As the film becomes more of a road movie involving chemistry between Paul’s Tobey Marshall and Imogen Poots’ Julia, the film tilts its head towards those bubbly buddy movies featuring a hard-boiled male and a strong but effervescent female. Waugh is also the first filmmaker to figure out how to use Poots’ sense of humour and sex appeal, evoking her into a great leading lady and love interest for Paul.
Around Paul and Poots are a collection of colourful characters ranging from Scott Mescudi’s bombastic role as Tobey’s security, Dominic Cooper’s scowlingly effective villain, and Michael Keaton’s manic turn as a race enthusiast. I wouldn’t say Keaton is chewing scenery in a way that’s bad, but he is having fun going buggy berserk from behind his broadcasting system with a performance that probably took a few hours to shoot.
Need for Speed may kick ass, but I can still understand it has completely outlandish moments. Mescudi effortlessly gets his hands on just about every kind of helicopter you can imagine and police are only needed when called upon. And, does Cooper really need that much spiky hair gel to let the audience know he’s the bad guy?
However, the astonishing action is non-stop and the film’s stupefying cinematography and overall attitude tells the audience it’s unlike any action film you’ll see this year.