Thursday, March 13, 2014

Need for Speed? How About a Plot?

Aaron Paul in "Need for Speed." (Photo: DreamWorks)

 MOVIE REVIEW 

Some say that you can’t make a good movie based on a video game and I tend to agree. Still, Hollywood seems to churn out two or three a year that get panned by critics but praised by the fans of the game. With Need for Speed, I think it will be more of the same.

Speed is based on a series of racing games by Electronic Arts and I am told are the most successful racing games in the world – over 140 million copies have been sold. The problem with turning a video game into a movie is that not all games have a plot and many are so “out there” that it is hard to make it relatable on film. This film tries. It really does. The website for the film says that it “captures the thrills of the game in a real-world setting.” That sounds impressive, but the end result is a storyline that is so silly, unrealistic and incredible, that the movie should have been made as a comedy rather than a drama. With that said, is anyone going to Need for Speed for the story? Of course not. It’s the racing that makes this movie, and for that, they do a great job.


Just one of the amazing race/crash scenes
As for the story however, let’s see if I can make sense of it. Tobey Marshall (Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul) carries on his father’s auto repair business and the struggling business is about to close its doors for good if he can’t find a way to bring in some new cash. Fortunately for him, he has a posse of friends with incredible talents who would rather use them for auto repair and racing rather than invest them in a good job. Just like Archie has a rivalry with Reggie, Tobey has some issues with a former classmate, the wealthy and arrogant Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) who he reluctantly partners with to soup up a car and re-sell it for an insane amount. Dino’s girlfriend is apparently a friend of both the men and the ex-flame of Tobey. She wins the award for best wooden performance since Pinocchio. Fortunately, she’s not in the movie much.
Meanwhile, Julia Bonet (Imogen Poot), a car broker enters the scene and purchases the car for some rich guy she represents. Everything is looking pretty rosy for ol’ Tobey, until a freak chain of events causes him to be framed for manslaughter and put away in prison for a few years. When he gets out, all he wants to do is race Dino in the huge underground racing event called the De Leon. In order to qualify for the race, he must race against the clock, as well as the police, to get there in time.

Michael Keaton has the thankless task of playing the eccentric Monarch, the creator of the De Leon. He doesn’t share the screen with anyone during the entire movie and utters strange ramblings about racing  on his underground website. For being an illegal race (and one that no one know the route until the day of the race), it seems odd that the police have not caught up with the Monarch since everyone in this picture is aware of both him and his race.
At the end of the day, Need for Speed feels like an over-extended commercial for both Ford cars and the game itself. (The cast actually play the game in one of the scenes!) And by over-extended, I mean that the movie runs at least a half hour longer than it needs to.
Speed is partnership between DreamWorks and Disney, however, Disney chose to put it under the Touchstone label, probably to protect them if the flick should bomb like its last video game movie, The Prince of Persia.

On the plus side, the photography is great during the racing scenes and a few scenes have some really artistic touches added as well. Need for Speed is rated “PG-13” for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language. Believe it or not, this film contains no sex scenes, the nudity is pretty tame, and the “disturbing crash scenes” are actually not that disturbing. However, if you bring your kids, know that there is plenty of bad language and even though the film features “good guys,” they still participate in bad behavior. Not hardly the role models you want for your kids. 

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