Monarch: This ain’t just about racing.
NEED FOR SPEED needs many things but speed is not one of them. It’s got plenty of that already, along with plenty of flashy cars, plenty of impressive stunts and more slow motion close ups of Aaron Paul emoting intensely than I ever imagined possible, but that’s pretty much all it has. For some, there really isn’t anything else required. This is a movie about drag racing after all, so as long as the action never slows, the race should be all the thrills you need. You can only maintain this kind of speed for so long though before you inevitably run out of gas.
To allow the focus to remain on the racing, stunt man turned director, Scott Waugh (ACT OF VALOR) and producer turned supposed writer, George Gatins (SHE’S OUT OF MY LEAGUE), choose to keep the NEED FOR SPEED plot extremely simple. The local kid with all the talent (Paul, in his first big screen foray since the end of Breaking Bad) has beef with the boy who busted out of their small town to find success in the big leagues (played by Dominic Cooper). Their vendetta, which is never fully explained but clearly involves a girl, is intensified ten fold when a friendly race between them ends in tragedy for one of their friends. Paul’s Tobey Marshall takes the fall for the accident and, after spending a couple of years in the slammer, makes it his mission to race against his archenemy one more time to avenge the death of his friend. Imogene Poots provides Tobey with romantic distraction to pass the time before we get to the big race, which is good because it takes nearly two hours to get there.
The tired premise and often embarrassing dialogue attributed to the supporting cast, which includes Kid Cudi and Michael Keaton, take some of the speed out of NEED FOR SPEED’s ride, but what it lacks in depth, it easily makes up for in creative stunt work, most of which is carried out by the actors themselves, and none of which is enhanced by any CGI. As loud as these engines rev though, they never roar loud enough to make this race a must.
This review was originally written for Exclaim! and it appears here with their permission.