Full disclosure: I hate spoilers in reviews, so there won’t be any in this one. NEED FOR SPEED is rated PG-13, but R or NC-17 might have been more appropriate. There are no explicit sex scenes, but the driving scenes are ridiculously, gratuitously reckless, dangerous and, in most cases, violent. I know it was made from EA’s video game series of the same name, but seeing it happen in “real life” may not be the deterrent it should be when confronted with the consequences. I certainly wouldn’t want teenagers getting ideas. Continue reading for the full NEED FOR SPEED movie review – the DreamWorks Pictures’ film opens Friday, March 14, 2014.
Like the video games it’s based on, the backbone of NEED FOR SPEED is car-racing and not just any car-racing, but street racing (which became the focus of the video game with the release of “Need for Speed: Underground,” complete with police chases. Not all of the racing in the movie is urban, but even the highway chases are intense and suspenseful. My heart was pounding throughout most of the movie.
NEED FOR SPEED is a classic revenge tale with a good guy (and his cronies) and a bad guy (and his henchmen). There’s a love triangle, too, but no need to worry – we know which girl to root for from the very beginning. This is not a subtle tale. You’ll always know what’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of when and how bad the damage will be when it happens. Trust me, there will be damage (see above where I mention urban street racing)!
The characters, as mentioned above, fit very neatly into their good/bad roles, with no real complexity. The hero, Tobey Marshall (played by Aaron Paul), is trying to save his recently-deceased father’s automotive business. The villain, Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper; it’s early in the film, but we know he’s the villain, because he’s dating Tobey’s ex – see above about the love triangle) steps in with an offer that will save the business – to rebuild (and soup up) a car. The offer leads to a challenge, which leads to the turning point in the film, which drives the revenge story. Where does Tobey go from there? Does he stay good and true and noble or do the evil misdeeds turn his heart? Oh, I almost forgot the dream/prophecy that lurks in the background. This is a real fairy-tale of a story.
Running behind the story is a second story. The most-revered street race in the urban world is the invitation-only Deleon. An invitation to the Deleon is a prestigious honor conferred by Monarch (played by the brilliant Michael Keaton), an elusive personality who chooses the time, place, and racers. In order to increase the suspense, our hero has only 45 hours to get from Mt. Kisco, New York (east of NYC) to San Francisco, during which time he has to drive his racing car, prove he’s worthy of entering the Deleon to Monarch, and get there in time to learn where the race will be. The hows and whys and wows happen next. You’ll have to watch the film (or take an educated guess, but then you won’t get to see all the heart-pounding stunts) to find out how it all turns out.
The cast is a bevy of beauties, each more attractive than the last. The acting skills aren’t shared among them, unfortunately, but the action more than makes up for that. The shining star is Michael Keaton. He doesn’t have many scenes, but he was, to me, the most memorable figure in the entire film. His character had mystery, nuance, and power – he was the fairy godfather leading them along.
In order to create all of the good action fun of the film, there had to be a lot of damage, especially when it involves car racing in urban areas. From what I understand, the cars used in the filming of the race scenes were replicas of the supercars in the movie, which makes a lot of sense, budget-wise, because those cars are expensive. I’m surprised they didn’t use CGI for those scenes. The race and chase scenes are exciting, but reckless. It’s a violent world and the racers seem to have no care for the bystanders (other drivers, pedestrians, etc.). The level of recklessness and disregard is mind-blowing and it’s this aspect of the film that leads me to suggest that children, including teenagers, shouldn’t be admitted to the theater.
NEED FOR SPEED is not appropriate for children (or anyone under the age of 21, if you ask me), but it might be a good date-night movie for parents or adults who want a mindless escape and a reason to clutch at each other during all the heart-racing moments.