Need for Originality – A review of Need for Speed

Imogen Poots and Aaron Paul star in the video-game-turned-movie Need fo Speed
Imogen Poots and Aaron Paul star in the video-game-turned-movie Need fo Speed

Title: Need for Speed

Production Company: Dreamworks

Run Time: 130 minutes

Rated: PG-13

Director: Scott Waugh

Stars: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Michael Keaton

3 stars for Need For Speed

Summary: Borrowing liberally from any number of better films, this movie is a conglomeration of scenes that are designed to provoke an emotional reaction, but all in all, this is just a mediocre exercise in entertainment.

The signs were all there right at the onset of this movie’s appearance on the big screen.

The trailers all screamed “Fast and Furious” remake. In deference, though, there are a LOT of differences. This story is a lot less far fetched than that aforementioned series of testosterone laden fast car flicks.

This movie’s biggest star is relegated to an extended cameo. Kind of like the rest of Michael Keaton’s recent career.

And the movie has more clichés than the average Will Farrell or Adam Sandler comedy. But at least this movie is funnier than the average Farrell or Sandler comedy.

The plot, in a nutshell: Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) and Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) are rivals who grew up in a small town in downstate New York. Brewster went on to become a famous race car driver, while Marshall stayed home and became a world class mechanic even though he’s the better driver.

Brewster returns home with a deal of a lifetime that will help out Marshall. But of course the rivalry will rear its ugly head again, and they will find themselves racing super fast cars on the streets of the city. And, as in all clichéd movies of this type, tragedy will strike.

Someone is killed, Marshall goes to jail. Brewster escapes. End of movie.

Or it should have been. Marshall is released and starts a cross country trek to enter a prestigious secret street race run by a millionaire (Keaton). The car he will drive in the race is a souped up Ford Mustang that Marshall and his crew refurbished and sold before Marshall ended up in jail.

Brewster would rather not find out if Marshall is indeed a better driver so he puts a bounty out on Marshall’s head.

If you can’t figure out what will happen from this point forward, you need to get out more. Needless to say, this is a by-the-numbers storyline that hits all the notes that one sees repeated in every other far better action adventure. And while it doesn’t hit them effectively, it still manages to satisfy your cravings even though it does leave a sour taste behind in the end..

There are enough holes in the plot and the story to drive a semi through. Which is not to say that the movie isn’t effective or evocative. It’s just that we’ve seen it all before.

Aaron Paul is not a great actor, but the film hinges on his capability of being likable. He is, but in a Tom Cruise sort of way. And that’s not the best image to come across with when you’re trying to win an audience.

Cooper, though, is always effective at playing bad guys. He sort of looks like a poor man’s Karl Urban. This is a good role for him and he makes the most of it whenever he’s on screen making a meal of the action around him.

Keaton’s narrative leading up to the big race is probably the most entertaining part of the story. His character is the edgiest in the movie, doling out spots to his illegal street race like secret tickets to a Willy Wonka factory tour. We all know who’s going to get that sixth ticket even if he pretends not to.

It’s amusing to note that of the six racers in the secret event, only Marshall and Brewster have names. The other four just sport nicknames, proving that they’re unnecessary elements and pure filler for the clichéd plot. In fact, we never even meet them before they become grease spots on the highway of poor street racers.

Don’t get me wrong. This is a fun diversion for two hours, but despite the preposterous plot elements, the Fast And Furious series had more pathos and far more riveting race scenes than Need for Speed.

And that’s what carries those movies over the finish line while leaving this one in the dust. I give Need for Speed 2-1/2 out of 5 stars.

Have you ever played the video game 'Need for Speed'?

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