‘Need for Speed’ review: would’ve preferred more speed, less predictability

Published 9:45 am Saturday, March 22, 2014

by Lauren Bradshaw

Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad”) is one of the best actors working today. So much so, I can watch him in just about anything. However, “Need For Speed” definitely tried my patience. I can forgive silly, over-the-top plot points in movies, such as cars getting strapped to a helicopter and flown over cliffs, but what I cannot forgive is predictability. Don’t get me wrong, “Need For Speed” has its moments, especially when it comes to the beautifully filmed racing scenes, however it’s as predictable as movies come.

Need For Speed opens on Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul), a talented driver who is desperately trying to make some money to keep his late father’s garage open. With the help of his friends, which consist of talented mechanics and a licensed pilot (to watch the roads from the skies), he is able to make a name for himself in illegal street racing.

When his super rich (and former Indy driver) nemesis, Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), comes back into town, Tobey and his crew agree to soup up a Mustang in exchange for 25 percent of the expected $2 million profit. As Dino is pitching the sale of the car to a rich businessman and his assistant Julia (Imogen Poots), however, Tobey interrupts the sale; instead of the car going 180 mph, Tobey claims it can go 230 mph (faster than NASCAR cars). To prove it to the buyer, Tobey sneaks the car to a test track and tops the speed out at 234 mph. Although Dino sells the car above the asking price ($2.7 million), he wants to put Tobey in his place so he challenges him to a race to see who the best driver is. The stakes: Dino agrees to give Tobey 100 percent of the profit from the sale of the car if he wins, while Tobey agrees to give Dino his 25 percent of the profit if he wins.

Like with pretty much every other racing movie, a life-changing event happens during the race that causes the drivers’ rivalry to go to even more extreme levels. The only way Tobey can get revenge on Dino is to gain entry into the king of illegal drag racing competitions, sponsored by a reclusive millionaire known as The Monarch (Michael Keaton). With the help of Julia, Tobey has to drive across the country in two days to hopefully gain entry into the competition. Will he make it in time and more importantly will the Monarch give him a spot in the race? I’m sure you can guess the answers to these questions.

Am I the only one that was concerned with all of the damage Tobey and his gang cause in their racing? I know I sound like an old woman, and clearly I understand that this is just a movie, but how am I supposed to feel anything for the characters when they severely injure many people (civilians and police officers) and their property just so they can race around and prove they are “the man”? That seems pretty reckless and irresponsible to me.

Regardless of my issues with the film, its one saving grace was that it featured Aaron freakin’ Paul as its leading man. His presence was pretty much the only thing that got me through the over two hour long movie. Well, that and imagining myself behind some of these expensive cars. Paul is at his best displaying his inherent charisma and intensity, just the characteristics Tobey Marshall requires. While “Need For Speed” is not the major role I would have first cast Paul in post-“Breaking Bad,” hopefully the success of this film will give him opportunities to do projects that fall more in his wheelhouse.

“Need For Speed” was not up my alley, but if you’re a sucker for fast, exotic cars and explosions (and can withstand a silly script) you may get your money’s worth. I’m not going to lie, walking out of the theater I was hyped about the awesome cars in the film, though these feelings of grandeur were quickly swashed when I saw my lovely Honda Civic, not a Bugatti, waiting for me in the parking lot. It didn’t stop me from pretending I was racing through the streets of D.C. on my way home, though.

My Review: C-