The car chase has been a staple of Hollywood movies almost since the inception of cinema itself but they really took off when 1968’s Bullitt hit theatres and since then directors have tried to make their chases even more thrilling. Now back then this meant hiring incredibly gifted stunt drivers and coordinators to pull of some really dangerous stuff but now with the aid of CGI and better compositing you can have your hero do any kind of stunt in a car without endangering anyone. I am of course fine with drivers not risking their lives just to make a movie but something has certainly been lost from the heyday of car movies. Sure today’s films still employ talented stunt teams but the results just don’t give you that same visceral thrill you got when watching something like The French Connection or The Road Warrior.
Enter director Scott Waugh who has made the transition from stunt man to director following in the steps of such legendary stuntmen as Hal Needham who gave us Smokey and the Bandit and Cannonball Run but, sadly, though this Need for Speed relies more on real drivers, and not as much CGI enhancements as some films, it still isn’t even as good as Cannonball Run 2.
This movie is of coursed based on a video game which has most movie audiences assuming it’s going to be crap right out of the gate, but being it is basically just a “car chase” movie all one has to do is slap on a simple plot, maybe a love interest and throw in a good villain to at least make an entertaining film. Scott Waugh fails at this in every way imaginable.
Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is a local gearhead god with a small group of friends that work in his late father’s garage but when the bank threatens to foreclose he must make a deal with Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) an old nemesis from his past who escaped the small town to become a professional race car driver, and he also stole Tobey’s girl. We are told by almost everyone that Tobey is the better driver but we never get an explanation as to why Dino went on to fame and fortune while Tobey stayed home to remain poor.
Tobey takes a job from Dino that consists of him and his team rebuilding a rare Ford Shelby Mustang which could sell as high as $3 million dollars, but whatever they get Tobey will receive 25%. This is great until upon selling the car Dino and Tobey engage in a street race to finally settle who the better driver is with each of their shares from the sale as stakes. This clearly establishes to us that our hero is a moron. And because this movie needs more drama than bank foreclosures and boyhood feuds one of Tobey’s younger groupies joins in on the race and is killed when Dino bumps his back wheel sending the kid’s car flying off a bridge. Dino flees the scene but Tobey stays and ends up going to jail. Also, no one of course believes him when he claims that Dino was there and responsible for the poor kid’s death. To add even more drama the dead kid is the little brother of the girlfriend that Dino stole from Tobey. If you think you need this much set-up for your silly car chase movie you’ve seriously misjudged your audience.
Two years later and Tobey is released from prison on parole and decides to enter this super-exclusive and very illegal car race, but of course he needs a car so he borrows that incredibly lavish and rare Mustang because millionaires are known for lending out their expensive toys to ex-cons that were incarcerated for vehicular manslaughter. There is a catch though he must take along Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots) who is the millionaire’s aide or something. She is, of course, the film’s love interest but she and Aaron Paul have about zero chemistry.
The only way to find out where this super-secret race will be held is to make their way across country from New York to San Francisco in two days to crash some meeting. Another wrinkle is that the race is invitation only so Tobey must draw attention to himself by starting a continent-spanning police chase so that maybe the race founder and racing legend Monarch (Michael Keaton) will be impressed. This kind of movie is of course going to require some suspension of disbelief but to expect the viewer to buy that a driver, even an awesome one, can evade the police for two straight days is bloody insulting. Watch any YouTube video of a police chase and you’ll notice that once air support is engaged by the authorities the fleeing driver is as good as caught, now expand that to a chase across several states and the strains of credulity snap.
That level of stupidity aside there was an element of this movie that I found even more egregious, after making all the way across country in this amazing car it gets totalled by one Dino’s goons. So this amazing car that our leads have tooling around in for the bulk of this movie, and earned him a spot in the race, is not going to be in the big race, which is some poor ass screenwriting, my friends. So what car does Tobey end up driving the car, well how about the one that Dino used to kill his girlfriend’s brother? Yes, this movies villain stored the one piece of evidence against him in a garage halfway across the country and kept photographic proof of the car’s existence and his guilt on his computer under a file named “personal” so that his girlfriend could discover it and hand it over to Tobey to drive in this stupid race, opposed to say giving it to the police so they could arrest her brother’s murderer. This is one vastly moronic movie.
Question: The race is between seven drivers and the winner gets all the pink slips to the opposing cars but at the end of the race all six other cars are mostly totalled and the winner gets carted off to jail. What kind of an idiot would ever enter that race?
Note: That is actual dialogue from this movie that someone actually got paid to write and it kind of sums up the problem with this film. A thin premise overburdened by needless complications compounded by some of the worst acting this side of an Ed Wood film.
Need for Speed (2014)
Movie Rank - 4/10
I’ve come not to expect too much out of movies based on a video game, and one based on a driving game I had even less expectations for, but this film managed to land even below that low bar.