Ah, yes, another video game movie. But before I get to that, I’m going to talk about racing games. I’ve said before that I’m a retro gamer, so something from a Super Nintendo and a Sega Genesis will appeal to me more than something from the Xbox or Playstation. I’m just not much of a modern gamer.
Now I will say that I do own a PlayStation 3 and, yes, I do own games for it. A Christmas gift last year was a Need For Speed game. After playing it, it’s a fun racing game with smooth driving mechanics, cool cars, some interesting missions, and a nicely-designed atmosphere where all the action can take place.
This was one of the few racing games I played. If you ask me for any others, I can only talk about the Mario Kart games. I’m not a big fan of racing games because I’ve never cared enough to want to customize a car and go against other people. I know there’s a big audience for that, but I’m just not a part of it.
Aside from racing and building, people characters aren’t really needed, but that’s fine as you’re technically driving the car and not role-playing as a person. The Need For Speed movie tries to give its drivers their own life behind the wheel.
Tobey Marshall (played by Aaron Paul) is a former racecar driver who owns a garage with some friends. With their business not gaining much money, Tobey and his crew participate in illegal street races, and seem to be pretty successful at it.
One day, Dino (played by Dominic Cooper), a former rival of Tobey’s, gives them a job of restoring a classic Mustang that’s worth a lot of money. The car is completed and bought at an auction by an Englishwoman named Julia (Imogen Poots), but an argument leads Tobey, a friend named Little Pete, and Dino out on another race.
Dino hits his car into Little Pete’s, causing the latter to crash in a fireball. With Dino leaving the scene, Tobey is sent to jail for manslaughter.
Two years later, Tobey is released and seeks revenge. But with no cars or a garage, he calls up Julia to use the Mustang he put together. They both make their way to California from New York to enter a race called the De Leon, a take-all competition that the rich and crazy participate in, as organized by DJ Monarch (played by Michael Keaton).
So as you can tell, Need For Speed is one part The Fast and the Furious, one part Smokey and the Bandit, and even one part western. The movie really wanted to capture the car excitement from the video game and to its credit, most of it really works.
Unlike a modern car movie that can easily do most of its stunts with CGI, Need For Speed did a lot of their own with practical effects: real cars, real jumps, and real crashes.
All of it looks great, maybe even better than The Fast and the Furious. But like any movie based on a video game, your control is taken away in place of a character.
Aaron Paul is certainly a likable lead and so is Dominic Cooper as the villain. But everyone else is simply forgettable and bland. Most of Tobey’s crew is the stock hip and cool friends that a twenty-something would have and Julia isn’t that interesting as a female lead. That’s bad writing for you. But does the car action make up for a bad screenplay and characters? Eh…probably not, but I was entertained. The car stunts were fun and the movie looks great, but under the hood reveals a cheap set up with cheap characters.
I’ll give this three and a half Ford Mustangs out of five. I’m giving Need For Speed a modest recommendation, but only for those that want a two-hour ride of a car movie. An engaging story with a complex plot is not to be found here, but for a movie based on a video game, we could have gotten something much worse.
Robert T. Nickerson is a film critic. His work can be seen at mastermindfilmproductions.com.