Judge David Johnson has a need for Speedos.
High-octane or cow methane?
Sort-of-but-not-really based off the hit video game series, Need for Speed brings the cars and the stunts and the racing action—and little else.
Facts of the Case
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) stars as Tobey Marshall, an underground racing legend and a well-regarded car tuner. When one of his higher stakes races goes tragically wrong, Marshall finds himself cooling his heels in prison, convicted for a crime he didn't commit. When he's let loose he has one thing on his mind: seeing that justice is served. Lucky for him, justice will be found on the hairpin turns of the most dangerous underground race in the world.
First things first: Need for Speed should be applauded for doing a fast car movie the right way. That is, practically. There are a handful of ambitious chase sequences embedded in the film and to the credit of the director Scott Waugh and his stunt crew they're done with no CGI (at least none that my discerning eye can find). I've always thought computer-generated cars were the most egregious use of visual effects in action movies and I have never seen them done with success. CGI car crashes just feel like total cheap-outs. Need for Speed dispenses with all that, the auto mayhem rendered with old-fashioned engineering and exhaust manifolds.
So major points for this. Unfortunately, everything else associated with the film is straight-up jalopy-level. It pains me to say this as I am quick to endorse films like this that do it honestly (endangering the lives of stuntmen), but Need for Speed stinks.
It's the age-old observation: What good is the action, if the characters and story have no weight to make it worthwhile? Even though I'd consider myself more forgiving of a lopsided narrative-to-action formula than most others, by any calculus, Need for Speed flails. Here's why:
It's too long.
No one would care if all of the characters died in a fiery car
That donut line was the high point of the writing.
A nice and loud Need for Speed (Blu-ray) from Dreamworks starts with a clean 2.39:1/1080p transfer that renders its car porn with verve. Even better is the throaty DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, an extremely aggressive mix that will turn your A/V room into the Nurburgring. Extras: Commentary with Waugh and Paul, a behind-the-scenes look at how the car action was done practically and featurettes on the stunt crew, the sound production, the circus that is the traveling production team, outtakes, deleted scenes, and an iTunes digital copy.
It lacks the sex, sizzler, and star power of the Fast and Furious movies, but Need for Speed goes toe-to-toe as far as car action goes. Unfortunately, the rest of it had the punch of a Pinto with a thrown rod.
Off to the scrapyard.
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