March 22, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 61°F


Review: Uninspired race flick sputters and stalls

"Need for Speed"

Directed by Scott Waugh

“Need for Speed” claims to be based on the popular video game series of the same name, but proves to be a forgettable racing movie desperately trying to emulate the “Fast and Furious” franchise. If the producers hoped to draw an audience by using the “Need for Speed” brand, then audience members may be disappointed, because any relation to the games goes only as far as the title.

Instead, “Need for Speed” creates its own story, following Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul), a gifted mechanic by day and an extraordinarily talented racecar driver by night. Before a routine drag race, he receives a visit from Dino (Dominic Cooper), a former NASCAR driver who, for reasons never revealed, everyone seems to hate with a passion. During a later race among Dino, Tobey and Tobey’s best friend, Pete (Harrison Gilbertson), Dino causes an accident that kills Pete and manages to pin the blame on Tobey, who ends up in jail because of it. After being released from his two year prison sentence, Tobey is eager to skip parole to enter an illegal-but-publicized race where he hopes to defeat Dino as revenge for the murdering of his best friend.

Some races prove to be well-constructed, occasionally gripping action sequences. Former stuntman-turned-director Scott Waugh places his camera in the car, heightening the sense of danger in the scene. The stunt driving is particularly impressive, weaving in and out of traffic at high speeds. In many scenes throughout the film, Tobey outsmarts police cars and other racers by forcing them into accidents with civilians, many of which are violent enough to prove fatal. For a movie about avenging someone’s death, the film gleefully causes innocent civilians to die without a second thought. This is not only careless but also counterintuitive to the plot, making the film feel lackluster as a whole.

The supporting cast is mainly there to provide comic relief for the stoic performances of Paul and Cooper, but it only draws laughs from how unfunny their characters really are. Michael Keaton, who plays the coordinator of the illegitimate race, seems to be the only one who realizes the stupidity of the movie he’s in and has fun with the role by portraying his character as an overly excited maniac.

With moderately entertaining action scenes and a plot and dialogue that will make any middle school graduate face-palm, “Need for Speed” is a weak attempt at capturing the spirit of the “Fast and Furious” movies it so dearly admires.