This post is the unedited copy of the review published at Dawn.com.
Sleek, Fast Cars Go Vroom Vroom!
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
Years ago, when The Fast and Furious first came out, I asked myself a very simple question: what would the producers of ‘Need for Speed’ do when it gets adapted to the big-screen?
Now, some of you may say: back in 2oo1 no one was even contemplating a ‘Need for Speed’ movie, so why the question? The answer is simple: with Hollywood and intellectual properties with big commercial potential, the question isn’t constricted to an ‘if’; it’s more likely a ‘when’.
Five ‘Fast and Furious’ movies and fifteen ‘Need for Speed’ games later (I’ll get back to the necessity of this comparison in a moment) Need for Speed, the movie, stars fast action cars – three Koenigsegg Agera’s, a Lamborghini Sesto Elemento, McLaren P1, Saleen S7 (amongst others) – and subsequently a yarn about a wrongfully accused whiz motor-mechanic’s vengeance.
Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad) is a former racing driver turned performance mechanic, who is framed by former competitor Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), after he gets him to complete work on a pricey Ford Shelby Mustang – which is also one of principal characters in the movie.
Yes, it is as simple as the title suggests. The cars whir, drift and go kablooey on the highway while our hero – driven by the rush of racing and his itch to get even – grinds his teeth and flexes his driving muscles.
Another Adrenaline Rush Action-Movie?
Yes, but don’t hate the movie for what it is.
As much as the settings resemblances anyone of Need for Speed’s engine revved brethren – including Fast and Furious, whose later parts have less cars and more brawn – the screenplay by George Gatins deliberately places the cars in the narrative backseat.
Instead of showing off paintjobs, skimpy car-girls or custom performance tune-up – which by the way, is a part of the plot – our point of reference is Tobey, Julia (Imogen Poots) and Maverick (Scott Mescudi), as they first, speed from New York to San Francisco in forty-eight hours (one stand-out scene in the movie features a mid-highway refueling), evading police capture and imminent death by racers-turned-bounty hunters (Dino has a reward out on their heads), and later sprint against top-of-the-line automobiles in an underground race sponsored by the eccentric Monarch (Michael Keaton, cast with the idea of being over-the-top).
Need for Speed, notwithstanding its videogame lineage, is still a nascent movie franchise; thematically though, there would be little change in formula in any action movie with shiny vehicles (be it cars or bikes). A hero would come with emotional baggage, a kind heart, and stupefying driving skills. He would (of course) get the girl, settle a score – usually the central point of the storyline – and hoodwink the police in the process. The formula is hiccup-free and universal to the premise.
Director Steve Waugh stylistically, and intelligently, tones down digital flamboyance by settling for real cars and real crashes. Although the all-digital cinematography by Shane Hurlbut (using Canon C500’s), betrays the down-and-dirty organic look of a film negative (there is a lack of grain in the picture and the 3D is just about average), the realism of capturing live-action visuals manages to give Need for Speed the distinction that left Fast and the Furious more than a decade back.
The Final Word
For a movie with so much formulaic dead-weight and a lack of dynamism, Need for Speed is a tastefully executed, unpretentious fodder. Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots are believable, but the cars are fantastic; and of course, they – or the Need for Speed tag – are the reason you’d go for the movie anyway.
Released by Walt Disney Studios, ‘Need for Speed’ is rated PG-13 for scenes of automobile delinquency and stunts you shouldn’t attempt with in your vehicle.
Directed by Scott Waugh, Produced by John Gatins, Patrick O’Brien, Mark Sourian; Screenplay by George Gatins, on a story by George Gatins and John Gatin (Based on the videogame Need for Speed by Electronic Arts); Cinematography by Shane Hurlbut; Editing by Paul Rubell, Scott Waugh; Music by Nathan Furst.
Starring: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Ramón Rodríguez, Rami Malek, Dakota Johnson, Harrison Gilbertson and Michael Keaton.
The published version can be found here: http://www.dawn.com/news/1098322/movie-review-need-for-speeds-realism-beats-fast-and-the-furious