Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Need For Speed Review

Need For Speed Review
I know absolutely nothing about the video game in which this movie is based upon. I have vague memories of watching my brother play this game. All I can rate on this movie is what is presented to me. I wanted to point this out before I got too far in this review. Let it be known though that if the video game consisted of nothing but a "Fast & Furious" style drag-racing crew, caught up in a much weaker script, being led by an actor channeling the TV character he's famous for. Then I think fans of the video game will love "Need For Speed."

Unfortunately, that is all "Need For Speed" the movie seems to offer. We are offered a look into the lucrative world of underground racing. But the movie is so similar in style and execution to the "Fast & Furious" franchise that I found it difficult not to compare the two. The film revolves around Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) and Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), two rivals within the world of criminal racing. After a team-up to build a fast car, Dino challenges Tobey to a race for profit. While Tobey is winning, Dino sets up a trap that leads to the death of one of Tobey's friends and sets Tobey up as the fall guy. Tobey goes to prison while Dino goes to the funeral of the friend. Two years later, Tobey is released on parole and ready to get revenge on Dino. In order to gain that revenge, Tobey will enter a winner-take-all race to get to Dino. The execution of all of this is so mind-numbing that I can't believe I am talking about a real film.

Another bizarre choice is handling the character of Tobey Marshall. I like Aaron Paul quite a bit as an actor, and I was genuinely curious to see how he would handle a lead role in a big action movie. What I don't understand is how lots of traits within Tobey's personality mirror Jesse Pinkman from "Breaking Bad." I loved "Breaking Bad" and I think Paul absolutely crushed it as Pinkman, but why channel it in this movie? Tobey didn't start cooking up Crystal Meth in this movie, so what's the point? Why go out of the way to create a somewhat Jesse Pinkman clone? For long stretches of the movie, Paul is out of Pinkman mode and that's when he really shines. I think he has some great scenes and real strength as an action star. But I just hate how they handled his attitude at times.

I have equally loved Dominic Cooper over the years, so it pains me to say that he absolutely wasted here. He's a typical, cartoon bad guy in this and nothing more. There is nothing unique about his plot, there is nothing clever in his dialogue or backstory. He doesn't have a decent line or decent scene in the entire movie. He's just the bad guy needed in order to get this story going. What a waste of a dominant and prominent actor. With Cooper's involvement, he could have creating a character who was more than a villain, someone edgier, someone memorable. Its a little disappointing how off the mark they landed with his character.

The car scenes are big, loud and have a tendency to kick some serious butt. Again, a lot of the editing relies heavily on car movies that came before it. I think a lot of studios follow a template when it comes to making a certain type of blockbuster. I honestly hope that the upcoming "Batman vs. Superman" movie looks absolutely nothing like "The Avengers," because that's the route Hollywood seems to be taking. If something makes money, copy it to the point of pointlessness. What Hollywood doesn't seem to realize is that not every car movie looks like the "Fast & Furious" model. Look at "Drive." Look at "Death Proof." Look at "Two-Lane Blacktop." Those are great examples of car movies that don't look like that model. I will say again that I never played the game. Perhaps that's what the game is like, to which I'd argue that not everything that works on a video game can translate onto screen. Which is possibly why barely any video game adaptations have worked.

I loved that Kid Cudi was in the movie. I loved Michael Keaton's brief yet effective moments onscreen. I loved some of the energy the film possessed. I think Imogen Poots is one of the most underrated actresses of her generation. Other than that, I can't say too much else about "Need For Speed." It had potential, but its constant shoulder on familiarity is what hurts the film the most, in more ways than one. If this is really what a "Need For Speed" film should have looked like, then I guess it just wasn't for me.

FINAL GRADE: C-

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