Need For Speed is ridiculous, contrived, thinly plotted with poorly constructed characters. It’s a film based on a video game, with a title derived from a line of dialogue in a slick but soulless 1980s action film. It’s also a blast – delivering one of the most fun action films I’ve seen in a while. Director Scott Waugh knows that this is all about the stunts, and he delivers on the high-octane action front, ditching CGI for old school crash and burn that puts the audience right in the action.
The plot is inconsequential, but since you might be interested it’s about Aaron Paul’s Toby Marshall getting revenge on Dominic Cooper’s slime-ball millionaire car racer (the ludicrously named Dino Brewseter) for causing the death of his best friend. The only way he can do this is by entering a top secret (and highly illegal) race that has been organised by the mysterious Monarch (Michael Keaton). Marshall is saddled with a sassy sidekick played by Imogen Poots (another crazy name, and oddly a real one) who wants to keep an eye on his expensive wheels, however, she soon forgets about the car and instead wants to get her hands on his gearstick.
I wasn’t a fan of director director Scott Waugh’s last film Act of Valour, calling it ‘a two hour advert for the US military, like Top Gun without the charisma…a badly written, poorly acted actioner that strives to place itself beside the best pro-American, military works of Jerry Bruckheimer, but instead it can’t even manage to achieve the level of the Charlie Sheen/Micheal Biehn starrer, Navy SEALS’. That was true, but this time Waugh nails the Bruckheimer aesthetic delivering the best Jerry Bruckheimer movie that Bruckheimer never made this decade. This is meat and potatoes action, served up on a slick plate for the action fans who are malnourished by nutritionally lightweight CGI. It might be mindless – but it’s damn good fun.
Aaron Paul shows that he can hold his own on the big screen away from his career defining Breaking Bad role. He doesn’t have to over-stretch himself, but he makes an engaging leading man. Cooper is all snivelling sneer, the pig-faced bastard you love to hate, while Poots has little to do other than ride shotgun with Paul, although the duo engage in some witty banter adding chemistry to their flimsy characters which could simply have been named ‘Hero’ and ‘Chick’. Michael Keaton lets rip in a fun supporting role. Keaton’s Monarch is like living Betelgeuse(Bettlejuice), an internet shock-jock infused with a live-wire passion. Keaton takes this small role and elevates it, giving us one of his most fun performances in years.
Need For Speed has fun moments scattered like highway debris throughout its two hour running time. Paul comes with a gang to help him make his high-speed drive across America, tailed by killers after a bounty is put out on his head. Each has a moment to shine, even if their parts are wafer thing. None of it makes any sense – but this is a fun joyride for that moment when you switch off the brain and engage the eyeballs.
Feel the need – the Need For Speed.
Need For Speed comes with a few few behind the scenes pieces that may be brief, but they show how Waugh and company created the real chrome car carnage.