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Need For Speed Is Formulaic But It Does What Movies Should Do, Entertain | Need For Speed Review

Need for Speed relies on more than epic crashes and devastating explosions to push you to the edge of your seat; instead, it crafts a tale of various twists and turns at break-neck speeds and coasting drifts to deliver a great somewhat heartfelt experience.

Need For Speed (NFS) is pretty late to the racer genre and uses a clichéd formula to reach its predictable conclusion, but in doing so, everything in-between is quite remarkable. Yes, this is another story where the “hero” is struggling, barely hanging on, every good deed leads to a terrible ending and the hero must find his road to redemption above all else. But, the journey has never felt so real and so alive as it does throughout this film.

The film quickly sets up a hero in Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) and a villain in Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) after shady tactics in a race tear Tobey’s world apart. Now, Tobey must speed his way from New York to California in 46 hours. Encountering various crashes, twists and turns along the way, Marshall remains defiant on his quest for redemption. His redemption lies in the form of a race, The DeLeon: an invite only, winner takes all race. The race is what concludes the film, but it’s the journey from coast-to-coast that makes the film.

The sprint from New York to California allows for some stunning scenery shots; from busy packed Detroit streets to the barren dirt roads of Arizona, the adventure touches all environments across America. The race across the country and eventually to the DeLeon is that much more stunning with the beautiful cars on display. Where The Fast And The Furious zigged, NFS zagged. Instead of going for “affordable” souped up rides they went with top-of-the-line super cars. From a 2014 Shelby Mustang (the one Carrol Shelby didn’t finish where Tobey Marshall jumped in and subsequently used in his race to get to the DeLeon), to supercars such as a Lamborghini Sesto Elemento and the fabled Koenigsegg Agera R, the film will have you grinning at the beautiful machinery and cringing at its ultimate destruction. As great as the racing scenes across spectacular locales are, at times, the shaky cam gets a bit too shaky. The screen has a slight blur, and it really pulls you out of the action for a quick second when you should be in a state of fear for the characters. As egregious and obvious as it is, it only happens a couple times throughout the film, which makes it more of an inconvenience than a complete distraction.

Koenigsegg Agera R, this will cost you a pretty penny...or two.

Koenigsegg Agera R, this will cost you a pretty penny…or two.

The coast-to-coast trip also allows for some great characterization between Tobey and Julia (Imogen Poots). Two strangers quickly become allies and eventually something more. The trap of falling into a melodramatic tornado begins to whirl, but you really only get a taste of it before the other actors intervene, often times with perfect comedic relief. In a scene where the two leads are dangling, Julia’s fear of heights begins to get to her and Tobey asks her a simple question, “What color are my eyes?” At this moment, I was about to shake my head, but then the dialogue that follows is more plausible and less melodrama. It’s hard not to commend the film for leading us down that oft-taken road then veering away from it before sure disaster. Besides the leads, the film is made up of a cast of Tobey Marshall’s friends all of which provide comedy throughout the film. The dialogue between all characters is sufficient; it won’t win any Academy awards, but it also won’t force you to shudder.

One more mystery character remains and he is simply called Monarch, the organizer of The DeLeon and the voice of the majority of the film. This actor completely stole the show, as he usually does, and really brought the many scenes to life with his cop berating and his eccentric energy. So who is this mystery actor? Let’s just say if you speak his name three times he may just come to life.

Scott Waugh’s (Director) vision of making this movie as a call back to the racers of the 70’s and 80’s pulled the film’s direction away from the surreal, allowing it to resonate amongst its audience. The crashes, jumps and hairpin turns en route to The DeLeon felt plausible and most importantly didn’t jump out and say, “hey look at these effects.” In one scene, that seems to be in every movie recently, it’s quite obvious the characters in their car are going to get t-boned. The camera angle used easily foreshadowed the crash, but the car didn’t flip a hundred times, it didn’t ignite into a fireball instantaneously, it simply spun, crunched and landed on its roof. The realism of the crash pulled you to the edge of your seat and kept you there, much like the entire film.

Verdict:
Need For Speed made the conscious decision to simplify its action, and this focus leads to a strong film that, while not bombastic, is a strong candidate to rival The Fast and Furious series or even surpass it. Where many racing films come to a screeching halt when anything besides racing is happening, Need For Speed slams the E-brake and turns right into it. It’s unafraid of attempting to tug at the heart strings, and while the majority of the film is predictable, the strong acting softens the rough edges. As stated by Monarch, “It’s about more than just racing,” and that’s what makes Need For Speed a great first film in the franchise.

Score: ⅘

Need For Speed will be released in theaters on March 14, 2014. The film is produced by DreamWorks Pictures and released by Touchstone Pictures.

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Joey Lampe

Joey Lampe

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