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When ‘The Fast and the Furious’ came out thirteen years ago, the film opened up a new world that we rarely got a glimpse into: street racing. It was a popular past time in many cities, but due to the illegal nature of it all, it wasn’t something that the mainstream was really picking up on. But as time as gone on, the sport is still popular, but ‘The Fast and the Furious’ franchise has moved away from the street racing scene, instead turning its sites on heists and action. So it was actually fun to return back to basics with the new film, ‘Need For Speed’, based on the EA video game series, and starring Aaron Paul, hot off the ending of his hit series, ‘Breaking Bad’, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, and Scott Mescudi, aka Kid Cudi. The film, directed by Scott Waugh, is a back to basics, revenge driven tale, full of fast cars, fun chases, and a whole lot of cheese.
Tobey Marshall (Paul) is trying his best to keep his father’s car shop afloat after he passes away. His money is low, his moral is too, but he’s bent on finding a way to make sure the shop stays open. When a guy from his past, Dino Brewster (Cooper), comes and offers to a way to help, Marshall has a hard time saying no. But when tensions run high, and Brewster feels betrayed, he decides to take an all or nothing approach to the money he owes Marshall: on the road. The race quickly turns south when Dino purposefully hits Marshall’s friend, flipping the car and killing him. Dino flees, covering his tracks, and Marshall is left to face the crimes for his friend’s murder. He is sent away to prison for two years, and when he comes out, all he can feel is the need for vengeance, and the need for speed.
While the film may be as basic in plot as many can come, there’s something about its simplicity that really works in its favor. ‘Need For Speed’ isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, it’s just trying to make us enjoy it again. The man on a mission for vengeance really isn’t something that audiences seem to tire of, and it makes sense to frame a movie like this. That’s why it was so wise to get an actor who we could enjoy, and who could elevate the film’s simple premise, and make it fun. Aaron Paul may seem like an odd choice, especially after his turn in the hit series, ‘Breaking Bad’, but he’s a perfect fit for this scorned man who just wants to make things right. He has a lot of gravitas, but while being a man of few words, which harkens me back to the world of Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, or more recently, Ryan Gosling in the film, ‘Drive’. While Paul isn’t going to be as iconic as those aforementioned characters, he fits that vein, and it works for him. Thankfully, the supporting cast is fun as well. Scott Mescudi, who plays Tobey’s best friend Benny is actually pretty charming. It seems like he’s playing a lot of himself in the role, but it works. He and Paul play really well off each other, and that’s really what matters, and makes any of Mescudi’s lesser moments easier to handle. Imogen Poots is actually pretty wonderful as Julia, the girl who ends up being stuck in the middle of Tobey’s mission, and she works very well with Paul. Their chemistry feels natural, and that makes the relationship really wonderful. But it’s Dominic Cooper as Dino that is the most fun, because Cooper just seems to be hamming it up. His villain is just so ridiculous, and you can tell that Cooper is really enjoying himself in the role. There’s really nothing more to his villain than just to be bad, and Cooper plays that one dimensionality perfectly.
Video game movies have had a very bad reputation, with so many turning out so poorly, but with a film of this nature, the only way to go is up. The film takes what has worked for the game franchise for so long, the chases, and made them the stars of the film. They take center stage here, and handled very well by director Scott Waugh. One thing that really makes them special, and really stand out ahead of the pack, is the lack of CGI in the film. All the chases were filmed with real cars, as were the stunts, so everything feels real and authentic, which is so rare these days. There’s just something about a throwback films like this that really make films so much fun. The chases are really well shot, brining that authentic racing feel to the film, which makes it so interesting. The crashes feel real, the close calls, the narrow escapes, and the quick correction of course gives the film a lot of tension, something you wouldn’t normally expect. It’s more just about how real some of it feels, as ridiculous as the situations surrounding them may be. The mid-film freeway chase, which starts with Tobey trying to re-recruit his friends to help him stands out clearly as my favorite of the film. It’s the most well done chase, and has a lot of jaw droppingly cool moments, including a rather ingenious way of escaping the cops.
‘Need For Speed’ really isn’t out to win any awards. It’s meant to be a throwback vengeance film, wrapped in a shiny car packaging. For the first time in a long time, it’s easy to say we actually have a decent video game movie on our hands. It’s a rare thing, so it’s good to see it works so well. The cast is great, led by Paul, who really seems to be firing on all cylinders, and bolstered by a great supporting cast. This movie is just fun. Nothing more, nothing less, and Scott Waugh delivers it in spades. Sometimes, the simplest of films can be the most satisfying, and ‘Need For Speed’ fits that mold. It’s not trying to reinvent the wheel, but it just wants you to have a good time at the theater again, and it does it’s job well.