Monday, 15 June 2015

Film Review #79

Need For Speed (2014)
Director: Scott Waugh Starring: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Scott Mescudi, Imogen Poots, Ramón Rodríguez, Michael Keaton, Harrison Gilbertson

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 130 Minutes

Tagline: "For honour. For love. For redemption."

After suffering the horror of Street Fighter: The Movie (which even the lovely Kylie in a skintight outfit couldn't make watchable), ever have I been wary of any films that have anything to do with videogames. Due to my appreciation of mental cars and films featuring them, however, I found it difficult to avoid this effort based on the long-running (and now 20 year old) series of EA games. To be honest, I'm surprised it took some-one this long to conjure up an NFS-based film, but the long wait certainly can't have been down to its plot-development. Besides featuring cars, it has little to do with the game series which itself has gone through many iterations, and is instead best described as a 'revenge road-trip movie'. Or alternatively, a flimsy excuse to show lots of mental cars being driven mentally.

The first line of the film's synopsis says "Framed for a crime he didn't commit..." too, which hardly lends it an air of originality, and the crime in question also gives us the most ridiculous of the implausible plot-points. Tobey Marshall (Paul) is a former racing driver who, along with his friend Pete (Gilberson), is challenged to a race by pro-driver and childhood rival, Dino (Cooper) in his uncle's three Koenigsegg Agera Rs. Of course, Dino doesn't race fair, Pete ends up melted in the wreck of one of the Ageras, and Tobey gets thrown in the slammer for involuntary manslaughter after Dino does a runner and claims there were only two cars involved in the race. And presumably, three 1,000+ bhp hypercars wouldn't leave three sets of distinctive screechy tyre marks all over the roads?

Staggeringly stupid set-up or not, though, this does do a decent job of establishing the 'hero' and his heinous, cowardly foe, and as soon as the former finishes his stretch he has one thought on his mind - revenge! This comes in the form of another race, naturally, but this time it's the De Leon, a legendary (and illegal) invite-only race across open roads. The big problem here is that the race is held in California - several thousand miles from his current location in the north-east of the country. No problem, you might think. He can just hop on a plane and be there in a jiffy. But no, that wouldn't be much fun would it? Indeed it would not, and accordingly the car he'll be using in the race is currently also in the north-east, and he's got two days to drive it all the way to Cali.

On the plus side, the car is a super hardcore Shelby Mustang, allegedly the final one worked on by Caroll Shelby himself and an insanely powerful example. Sufficiently so to get him there in time? Who can say? He has his buddies to help him (one of whom happens to have access to various aircraft) but he's also been saddled with the frosty Julia (Poots) representing the car's owner (and she just happens to be a young gorgeous English girly, obviously). Not only that but Dino is already in Cali and he's put a bounty out on Tobey via the 'net based organiser of the race, the enthusiastic-yet-mysterious Monarch (Keaton) who keeps listeners up to date with... well, everything, from his live stream.

The plot isn't exactly complicated though, and the film has inevitably drawn comparisons with the Fast & Furious series - let's face it, it probably wouldn't even exist were it not for the exploits of Dom, The Buster, and the rest of them - so it's not a huge surprise to find that the producers have chosen to focus their automotive attentions on the one area the F&F series has neglected (so far). For, while that series is crammed full of all sorts of super-modified 'rice rockets' and grunting American muscle, NFS instead mainly features ridiculous supercars that cost more than any mere mortal could afford and look like spaceships (aside from the aforementioned Mustang of course). This doesn't do a tremendous amount to set it apart from the F&F films though, unsurprisingly.

Like those, it's light on story, has even less-developed characters, and relies almost wholly on thrilling vehicular-based action. On that front it's fairly successful - the many driving sequences are very well-shot and pretty exciting for the most part (though not always terribly realistic) but everything else about the film is rather sub-par. Casting Aaron Paul in the lead role was a good call, what with Breaking Bad being 'the shit' at the time, and he broods through his scenes well enough, but the only other performance of note for me was from Ms. Poots, and that could be partly down to her nice accent and not-unpleasant aesthetic qualities. Overall though, NFS doesn't have the advantage of F&F's continuity or fan-service and it's just not as satisfying either.

RKS Score: 6/10