There’s a curse hanging over movies like Need for Speed. First, at this point, all movies in this genre are born in the shadow of six Fast and the Furious movies — there is a huge precedent already set for this genre. Will Need for Speed live up to its predecessors? Is it just a cheap copy? But that’s not the only element to the curse. Need for Speed is also a video game movie. I am fairly certain there is a curse affecting movies based on video games, as the only one I can think of that pleased both gamers and movie goers alike was Prince of Persia: Sands of Time — and that movie only had marginal commercial and critical success. The thing about curses, though, is that they are often hearsay and superstition. Need for Speed, in my opinion, broke said curse and hit it out of the park.
I can assure you that Need for Speed is not a cheap knock-off of Fast and the Furious — this movie can stand alone. It is also more than just an excuse to watch car races and see hot women. There is a story and, dare I say it is quite driven?
Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is a street racer and custom car mechanic. His dream, the dream of his whole crew, and especially his friend Pete (Harrison Gilbertson), is to win a secret race called the De Leon. Well, Pete’s sister has a jerk boyfriend (a rich, successful racer and custom car mechanic played by Dominic Cooper) who shows up and makes a deal with Tobey. Tobey’s crew will finish construction on the super-rare Shelby Ford Mustang that Brewster (the jerk boyfriend) managed to acquire.
After successfully selling the car for millions of dollars to the British, Brewster challenges Tobey and Pete to a street race with different fast cars. In the process of the race, Brewster manages to kill Pete (don’t you go complaining about spoilers, it is not a spoiler if it’s obvious, and believe me, it was obvious) and escape the scene, successfully denying all involvement. It is this betrayal and quest for innocence that fuels the rest of the movie.
Okay, I brought it up already, but I’ve just gotta make this point: that Shelby Mustang is really central to the story. This whole movie is essentially a Ford commercial with video game references. But it’s like a Super Bowl Commercial, the only kind of commercial you want to watch. Also like a Super Bowl commercial, this movie is much more entertaining than the Super Bowl itself.
Back to the what really sells this movie: it’s the quality storytelling. To compare to the Fast and the Furious, this movie feels narrative driven, and the narrative is actually impactful. Fast and the Furious really seems like an excuse to get fancy cars, loose women, Vin Diesel and Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson together in one place, while being ridiculous. Really, Need for Speed is ridiculous too; we still have cars jumping things, helicopter stunts, humorous bits, all that. What separates the two car racing films is that one’s ridiculousness is stupid, and the other’s is fun. Like a video game, Need for Speed is fun.
Need for Speed puts the law enforcement into a very interesting position. Street racing is illegal and a major focus of this movie. Plus, our hero is on the run from the law. We see how dangerous street racing is throughout the course of the movie, as it causes numerous crashes and at least one death.
We somewhat want the police to stop the race, but that would ruin the story. But even saying so, it’s not like the police are ever quite able to really stop the street racers. They seem to have lost some competence at stopping racers whenever it involves Tobey or someone else important to the story. However, they do pull off some great stunts of their own, and do some awesome things, always making themselves into a threat. See what I mean when I say interesting? The cops are both bad guys and good guys, simultaneously, and they are both freakin’ awesome and typical stormtrooper fare. You don’t know what to think of the law by the end of the movie, but at least you got a great story and action-packed racing in the process.
So, final verdict: give Need for Speed your money. They deserve it. We don’t need Fast and the Furious 7, we already have a good street racing movie– one with a powerful narrative, some really great cars, and plenty of racing action. And this is all coming from a guy who doesn’t care for car movies or racing in general. If this movie could get to me, it’ll get to you too, especially if you’re a fan of the Ford Mustang.
Photos via: Google