Need For Speed advanced screening
Need a lift?
Before you freak out, the advanced screening I attended was apparently one of few that was not embargoed, so I am indeed allowed to talk about it.
Need For Speed pummels the screen fast and furiously, accelerating into theaters March 14 as your standard, just okay action filler. The Aaron Paul vehicle is based on the video game series published by Electronic Arts, because movies based on video games always turn out well. The movie is directed by Scott Waugh, who makes full-throttle, exciting action sequences but hits the brakes when it comes to script. But did we really expect anything else from a movie like this?
Paul plays Tobey Marshall, your typical, edgy, leather-coated grease monkey. He owns a garage downtown with his mechanic crew (played by Scott Mescudi, Ramon Rodriguez, Rami Malek, and Harrison Gilbertson, who grow to be a rather charming supporting cast). An old rivalry is revved back to life when Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) returns to offer Marshall a once-in-a-lifetime business deal: if his cars are actually the fastest in the world like he claims, then they’ll be bought on the spot for two million dollars. However, tragedy strikes the day the deal is made, and Marshall ends up in prison for crimes he did not commit while Dino, the true criminal, wheels away freely.
Zoom ahead two years when Marshall is released from prison with his heart set on revenge and his GPS set to DeLona, where an annual and hopefully illegal race takes place each year. The race is apparently broadcast nationally and hosted by an anonymous Monarch figure (Michael Keaton). Accompanied by beautiful blond Brit Julia (Imogen Poots), who swerves between accomplished engineer and student driver in the dialogue, Marshall purposefully causes as many car accidents and police chases as possible in order to gain the Monarch’s attention and be invited into the race, which on one hand is completely unbelievable, but on the other hand, the movie wouldn’t be exciting without it. It’s the one and only possible way in the world he can get revenge on Brewster. There are no other conceivable options.
The completely impossible and oftentimes contrived script is forgivable for the fun ride it gives along the way, though. The film’s action scenes are reliably exhilarating, even if the plot itself can be seen coming from miles down the road. There’s an adrenaline-pumping sequence where Marshall and Julia drive off a mountain connected to a helicopter only by a single cord, which is pretty creative and heart-thumping, even in the realm of car chase action. In another scene Marshall catapults his vehicle into the air over a busy highway in a move he calls “the grasshopper” just to gain attention to himself, when he’s already on parole. Whereas the story itself hits a flat, the action sequences are oiled and ready to go.
Luckily a refreshing cast helps us get through what could have easily been a car wreck of a script. Paul and Poots deliver some surprisingly genuine character development and humor, plus their names together sound like some sort of sports bar. “Yo man, want some wings.” “Sure dude, let’s go to Paul & Poots.” The dialogue in the movie isn’t too much better than that actually, but the action scenes are what truly matter here, and that’s where the movie delivers. I just wish the road there was a little less bumpy.