director: Scott Waugh
writer: George Gatins
starring: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots and Michael Keaton
genre: Action | Crime
released: March 13, 2014 (Australia), March 14, 2014 (U.S.), March 20, 2014 (Germany & Greece)
based on the videogame series: "Need for Speed" series by publisher EA Games
It isn't unusual anymore to make a film solely based on the title of a popular brand, video game or even board game. You merely need to have the title be present for brand recognition and have some of the elements of the original property be present as well. Afterwards plot, character development and a "viable" world come into place. This way of thinking usually doesn't result in a successful film or franchise as studios would hope. As if anyone can remember how "Battleship" turned out, could imagine the same outcome for "Need for Speed".
Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) has a tune up car modding shop in a small rural town of America. There with his friends and co-workers. They get involved in underground street racing and illegal activity. When a old town resident, now hot shot professional driver Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) wants his prestige car fixed.
The group first hesitant to trust the deal, go ahead with it for the money. Things though don't go well once a death in the group from a freakish car accident is connected to their recent business partner Dino.
Because of the accident and the eventual set up on Tobey by Dino. Unlucky Tobey will have to spend two years in jail and get himself ready for some payback. Payback that will clear his name, but also shame Dino as the professional driver he thinks he is in the most prestigious underground racing tournament the 'De Leon'.
I applaud the efforts of the production in trying to make something truly out of nothing. Usually when a screenwriter or filmmaker comes up with idea. He moves forward with it because his idea is genuine, their is a thirst for creativity and a drive to entertain audiences (pun!). With a film like "Need for Speed" you can better believe that wasn't the case.
The studio did do its best to pad along the rest of the production. Picking an action/stunt oriented director, have the film's budget be appropriate to the scale of the action and put in the lead role a capable but also recognizable face. The same exact game plan with "Battleship" and we all know how that ended up.
So, what we have is a film that came out of nothing, trying to follow a trend of brand name productions, as well as trying to cash in on the "Fast and Furious" craze. Which comes to show it took almost 7 films for a studio to invest into that market, instead the studio behind "Torque" took 2.
Nonetheless, this film doesn't try to be the same as those. As it tries to have an original story, some pathos and character interactions that are a bit more juvenile and charming. However a little bit of everything doesn't make the film at all an enticing choice for a popcorn oriented audience. Aaron Paul's lead character Tobey and his villain counterpart Dino are both one dimensional characters with no depth whatsoever. They supposedly have a character history, coming from the same town and having had the same girlfriend. But no explanation or back-story is ever given to why they hate each other or why should we care about the rivalry.
Moreover the underground racing angle, which by now is a sham in my eyes. Yes these types of racing matches probably do exist, but not on the level that some of these films go so far to show them. And before we talk about the racing any further. Let's not forget these characters/drivers put a lot of lives in danger. Their reckless, spineless and if something bad happened to them. They got what's coming to them (lead characters included).
About the underground racing scene. Their is this mystical race tournament that everybody wants to get into and everyone is yapping about in the film (De Leon). In the film's entirety no one mentions or admits if its legal, illegal or whatever. It just exists and everybody wants to be apart of it. However in the film we do realize it is illegal with cops chasing after them and the drivers putting lives recklessly in danger. Ergo how the hell did this tournament last for so many years, also how the hell did these super known drivers not ever get caught and how did the man who organized the whole thing year after year dare to show himself live on the internet and not be behind bars? Answer me magic screenwriter of "Need for Speed"?
I was mildly interested in this film when I first saw the teaser trailer and the operatic tone it had. I thought they must have been going for something serious and maybe be the polar opposite of what "Fast and Furious" currently is. Once again I was wrong. "Need for Speed" turns out to be nothing more than a flashy high budget escapade. With a lot of talent, magnificent scenery and stunts, but a whole bowl of nothing in originality, plot development and character depth.