Videogame to movie adaptations do not have the best reputation. Need for Speed, hoped to take advantage of the game’s lack of plot and character restrictions and start a new movie franchise. Unfortunately, director Scott Waugh and writer George Gatins have not been able to end this long running tradition.
Need for Speed sees Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad), who is fresh out of prison after being framed for manslaughter by Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), taking part in a 45 hour journey from New York to San Francisco to take part in a top secret race called the ‘De Leon’ in an attempt to get revenge and clear his name. The car chases and action set-pieces are thrilling but the film is let down by a poor plot and a painfully bad script.
Shot almost entirely without the use of CGI or green-screen, the races and action are refreshingly different, in comparison to films in the same genre, such as the Fast and Furious series. This choice makes you feel more involved in the chase and gives you a different perspective of high speed. Bugatti Veyrons, Ford Shelby Mustangs and McLaren P1s are all on show; there would not be many better films for petrol heads. However, disappointingly, this is where the praise for Need for Speed ends.
The acting is generally awful throughout, with only Aaron Paul emerging with any credibility intact. Admittedly, some of the poor acting could be attributed to the dialogue, which is laugh enducing at times. Imogen Poots is the worst offender as she plays Julia, an extremely cliched young blonde girl who happens to know more about the workings of a car and how to race than the male characters, yet she screams and shouts when Paul’s character drives too quickly. Although Poots’ performance is certainly poor, the script does not give her much of a chance to express her acting talent.
Dominic Cooper’s character and performance are not much better, as he plays Tobey Marshall’s rival Dino Brewster, a wealthy business man with a violent side. The main problem is that Cooper’s character does not come across as much of a threat as Tobey and Julia are able to travel across the country with relative ease, only having to contend with a single group of thugs who attempt to collect the bounty put on the couple by Dino, by running them off the road. Cooper’s ‘evil face’, which he pulls in many moments of the film, is also one of the most amusing in recent memory.
The rest of the supporting cast are not particularly bad, they just do not have much of a role to play in the film’s narrative. Kid Cudi (known best for his song Day ‘N’ Night), who plays a member of Marshall’s crew, adds some comic relief but he spends the majority of the film flying different helicopters and looking out for traffic rather than having an impact on the story. Similarly, at the start of the film Dino’s girlfriend, and Tobey’s ex, is introduced, played by Dakota Johnson (21 Jump Street). There is some tension between them that could have been developed but she only appears once more, in any significant way, in the entire film. Its disappointing that potentially interesting characters have been so poorly developed in a film with a running time of 132 minutes.
You would never expect a film like Need for Speed to be particularly realistic. Fast and Furious 6 included Vin Diesel performing a flying headbutt and this new film is certainly more realistic but it lacks any simple logic. Many of the chase scenes rely on the fact that police “can only go 130”, as if American cops have never heard of road blocks. It is also strange that the owner of the 2.7 million dollar Mustang handed his prized possession over to a recently parolled mechanic without much persuasion, only sending his assistant (Poots) as a babysitter. Half way through the journey the crew insist on refuelling without stopping, in order to save time. They do this once and refuel normally for the remainder of the film, making it feel as if it was included only for the sake of having a moderately impressive stunt. There are other examples of poor logic throughout the film and its frustrating that the creator insisted on realism in the action but put little effort in the construction of the plot or the writing of the script.
Ultimately, Need for Speed would have been a far better film if the writer and director put as much effort into writing the script as they did the action.
Need for Speed (2014), directed by Scott Waugh, is distributed in the UK by eOne, Certificate 12A.