Need for Speed comes at its audience fast and furious, and for a video game made into a movie, it has a pretty solid story to boot.
Aaron Paul stars as Tobey Marshall, a talented street racer from a small rural New York state town. He and his friends not only run a garage where they work on other people’s cars, but they use their expertise to tweak their own raging machines that they take out on the weekends for street races that will blow viewers’ minds.
The way that director Scott Waugh has shot the film’s first races gives you an immediate indication of the free-of-CG, practical stunt cinematography one can expect from the entire feature. And as they say… we’re off to the races.
Dominic Cooper is Dino, and he’s an old friend/rival of Tobey’s. There’s some bad blood on two fronts. First, Dino stole Tobey’s girl, and secondly, he managed to get out of town and become a big name in racing and in the automotive industry.
But now, he’s back in Tobey’s town, and wants Tobey’s help restoring a Mustang with the promise of a big payday and perhaps, having some hurt feelings healed.
Marshall runs his father’s mechanic shop, and it’s not doing so well. He needs the money. So, what’s a guy to do? When the job is finished, Dino and Tobey agree to race and they bring Little Pete (Harrison Gilbertson) along as, well, he shadows Tobey everywhere.
As seen in that first Need for Speed trailer, the race does not go too well. Little Pete dies, Dino races off and Tobey is charged with manslaughter and sent away to prison for a couple of years. When Tobey gets out, he wants revenge. And what better revenge than to beat Dino at an underground race in California? The only problem is Tobey’s on probation, he can't fly on a plane. So, he embarks on a cross country race to the race that is as thrilling as can be.
Along for the ride is Imogen Poots. She works for a man who was willing to lend Tobey a car because he believes in him – but not enough to let him go alone. Poots and Paul have great chemistry and their banter only adds to the joy and lightens the mood a bit in between Waugh’s insanely choreographed and jaw-dropping stunts.
Cooper is a solid villain. He is equally slimy, confident and frankly, cowardly. But, this is the Paul coming out show. After his Breaking Bad finished its run, he should be ready for the big time and Need for Speed should be his ticket to that very promised land. He is approachable, yet heroic and very much reminds us of an early Steve McQueen, but he has something much more concrete to him as well.
What most impresses throughout the entire Need for Speed experience is the directing proficiency of Waugh. As a former stunt man and a son of a stunt man, he keenly knows how to meld action with drama. And because he wanted a throwback film to the car-centric flicks of the 1960s and 1970s, everything you see was truly captured with the actor in a car, driving like a madman.
And that may be the greatest gift of all for fans of the highest selling racing game in history. Our Need for Speed review can report that Waugh puts you in the car. You feel the turns at breathtaking speeds. When a car crashes, the impact shakes the viewer to his or her core. For fans of racing games, racing itself and racing movies… there can be no higher praise.
Sure, the story is written to serve the stunts. But, don’t get us wrong, there is enough of a compelling story here to draw us in throughout. Need for Speed satisfies our craving for vicious velocity, but after it comes to a close… we need more speed.