Movie Review: ‘Need for Speed’

Need for Speed Review
Aaron Paul and Dominic Cooper star in 'Need for Speed' (Photo © DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC. All Rights Reserved)

Reviewed by Ian Forbes

I have exciting news! I just saw a really good movie. It was the first good movie I’ve seen in all of 2014 (granted, I’ve seen less movies this year than I normally do). The only problem with this great movie I saw … was that I’m not talking about Need for Speed. Hopefully next week you’ll find out what movie I’m talking about.

But for now, let me start with the good aspects of Need for Speed. Director Scott Waugh, who did 2012’s Act of Valor, comes from a stunt department background. As such, he understands stunts and made sure that there was no CGI in this festival of expensive car crashes. Let me repeat that, there is NO CGI involved when it comes to the cars. Now sure, they’re using body kits when they’re going to wreck something but even Hollywood isn’t dumb enough to wreck multi-million dollar cars yet. YET. In any case, I was quite impressed with the stunt work involved and some of the car scenes were exciting.

That being said, while Waugh may understand that it’s better to do things practically than with a computer, he doesn’t quite seem to grasp how to shoot all that action. For a movie with so many ridiculously beautiful and expensive cars doing so many ridiculously crazy and dangerous things, I expected to have more thrills. I realize there’s not going to be a decent script. This is based on a video game series largely devoid of plot, so that there’s no place to go from a writing standpoint than your blasé vengeance angle, with a dash of hackneyed romance thrown in, doesn’t surprise me. But if you’re going to spend millions of dollars to create a brainless action flick, get the action right.

Adding to the “holy crap this movie is terrible” rating that I’ll sum up with some sort of letter grade at the end of this review, it felt like the actors knew how bad the script was and just gave up. Dominic Cooper is capable of very good acting. Aaron Paul is capable of very good acting. But as the respective villain and hero in this tale, they come off like two guys workshopping characters for a college production of go-kart racing. Surprisingly some of the supporting characters were able to add a little bit of energy to the production but much of the time, it felt like the screenwriters had watched Drive and thought they knew how to mix that seamlessly with Torque. Side note: If you can truly imagine what that would be like, you have my understanding and sympathy.

Adding to the less than spectacular overall result is the attempt to use 3D. Every once in a while it felt okay, but any amount of time spent trying to make the gimmick work should have been set aside for a script rewrite. To no surprise to anyone who’s read the words I crafted above, I simply cannot recommend Need for Speed. You’re far better off playing Gran Turismo on your PS3 or watching Top Gear on BBC. Your money is better spent buying a ticket to a car expo. At least then you can take your time to admire the cars. Here, you have to sit through two hours of people trying to compete with the cars for screen time. Pass.


Need for Speed is rated PG-13 for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language.

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