“Need for Speed” Movie Review

     At some point in the past life of Tobey Marshall, the main character in “Need for Speed”, I’m certain his mother warned him of the consequences his continued participation in illegal street racing would cause him.  Based on the events in the film, it’s obvious he didn’t listen, opting instead to defy because he can, as so many young people choose to do these days.  She’s never mentioned during the film, but perhaps she should’ve been.  If he had listened, all of us would have been spared from sitting through the worst film of 2014 thus far.  Instead, we’re told of a father whom everyone in these circles respected for his ability to drive a car in a race.  Marshall, played by “Breaking Bad” vet Aaron Paul, has followed in his foot steps and thus lives a life on the edge, unaccountable for his actions, nearly broke, and always looking for the next rush.  Sounds like a real winner to me.

     Director Scott Waugh, who apparently earned this gig as a result of his directorial debut with “Act of Valor”, looks for any excuse to stage another numbing street race and George Gatins script answers the call several times over.  Every sequence is much like the other.  Over long and dull, the film gives one the feeling of being forced to watch the Pod Race from “Star Wars: Episode 1” continuously for 132 minutes.  There’s nothing inventive here, just various cars going really fast on roads curiously devoid of any police presence.  What’s in between is a preposterously thin plot chalk full of cliched lines like “We’ll settle this behind the wheel!”.  Quite frankly, I don’t know how Paul and the rest of the cast were able to keep a straight face during shooting, other than knowing they were making a movie based on a video game meaning they already knew quality was likely out the window.

     Perhaps Marshall and his cohorts could’ve avoided financial disarray had they spent their money a bit more wisely.  In the opening sequence (yes, it’s a street race), the group sports a number of high end vintage muscle cars and is supported by a decked out truck complete with a high definition big screen on it’s side, tracking equipment, towing equipment, tanks for refueling, and high end electronics both inside and out.  Their operation includes a pilot, who has access throughout the film to various planes, helicopters, and even military air craft for the use of navigating the drivers through city streets as they attempt to avoid both bad guys and the cops.  What you see on screen would be quite an investment, considering they are racing illegally for prize money that tops out at a paltry $5000 for the winner.  Then again, we already know none of these morons are smart anyway.

     An ex-friend who has made it in professional racing, returns home with an offer to Marshall and the custom vehicle garage he runs.  Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) has what the others want in money, fame, and the ability to drive and race high end cars to his heart’s desire.  He arrives with the deal of a lifetime.  A new Ford Mustang that was said to be incomplete after the passing of a Shelby family member is worth big bucks to the right buyer and Brewster has chosen Marshall to finish the job in exchange for a percentage of the profits expected to be in the millions.  We’re not shown what it is exactly Marshall does to finish the vehicle, but minutes later the scene shifts to it’s unveiling.  I have to figure Ford paid a massive premium to the studio for the right to be so prominently featured throughout.  If anything, “Need for Speed” is a two hour long Mustang promo.  The shameless product placement even includes an appearance by the soon to be released 2015 model in a scene where the camera pans through the interior and basically ignores the driver who is one of the main characters in the film!

     After tragedy strikes, Marshall finds himself on a cross country trip to a secret race which is supposed to take place somewhere on the west coast.  The initial buyer of the Mustang (he paid $2.7 million after learning it can reach speeds of 230 MPH), allows Marshall to drive this car across the United States with the intention of using it in the race, which itself makes no sense because why would you drive 3000 miles in the car you intend to race?  With all you are likely to encounter on such a trip, would the car be in any condition to compete? If the owner is wealthy enough to own a car like that, couldn’t he simply fly the car to the location in a rented jet?  Now I’m to presume this race, given it’s popularity amongst the characters, has occurred many times before and if they knew the results of past races, I’m not sure why anyone would enter it in the first place.  The premise has six drivers, hand selected by a mysterious promoter called the Monarch (Michael Keaton), enter to race in vehicles which collectively cost as much as $4 million, with the winner of the race taking all of the cars.  Problem is, due to the nature of the race, all of the cars crash and burn making them worthless.  Why then would anyone want to enter?  You’d be risking your own vehicle, and your health, for nothing.

     The characters in a movie like “Need for Speed” obviously don’t think this way and appear to be in it simply for gratification which allows the filmmakers to stage one race scene after another.  With the “Fast and the Furious” franchise making billions, you had to figure it wouldn’t be long before a rival studio attempted to get in on the perception that these types of films make money.  Problem is, the original “The Fast and the Furious” film used a nifty take on the “Point Break” story as a framework for what would become a soon to be seven film franchise.  “Need for Speed” skips the “need” for a story all to together and defies logic at every turn, all in an effort to glamorize an idea better utilized as an arcade game. GRADE: F