• Need For Speed (2014)

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    This film pretty much passed me by, stayed under my radar. All of sudden it was in theaters everywhere! Now, I'm a pretty big fan of the "Need for Speed" video game and I just had to see if the movie would do that title some justice. We all know how movies based on video games tend to be bad and/or fail; will this one break the "curse"? 
    Just like in the game!
    By day Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is the respectable owner and mechanic of a car shop. At night he joins local street races. After a race with his old rival, Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) goes horribly wrong; Marshall gets framed for a death he did not cause. After 2 years, Marshall is a free man again. When he gets out of jail he is hellbent on avenging the death of his best friend. The only way to get to Dino is by joining the ”De Leon” an underground race organized by eccentric Internet personality called Monarch (Michael Keaton). With the help of his old crew, Marshall will not stop to clear his name and avenge his friend's death. 
    Tobey and his boys
    Let's get it right of the bat here, this film's biggest weakness is the story and its characters. They are as cliche as it gets. Aaron Paul is the strong silent type, in fact, at one point he even gets called just that! Dominic Purcell is one step away from twirling a mustache and to add insult to injury Scott Mescudi's character Benny is quite literally the token black guy and I'm not trying to be smart or funny either. It is clear they had action set pieces ready on paper and built a story around them. From the obligatory dramatic death scene to the forced romance; It's characters and story by numbers. The tone of the movie shifts rather dramatically as well. In one scene we see Marshall getting chased by Police and it's all “ fun and games”. In the next scene we seen him teary eyed, staring off into the distance.
    First I was like...
    Strangely enough though, director Scott Waugh makes it work. With what little the actors have to work with, Waugh gets the most out of them. You can see the actors had a blast and their enthusiasms and energy can be seen. Think of a Jackie Chan movie. They never have the best acting and stories but the enthusiasm explodes right of the screen. The film makers and actors believe 100 percent in their movie, it's exactly the same with “Need for Speed”. 
    ...but then I was like
    Aaron Paul is a great actor. We've seen what he's capable of (Breaking Bad, Smashed) but has never had to carry a movie. While this is an ensemble cast, he is at the center of it all and pulls it off quite nicely. With better material Aaron Paul could be a serious leading man in action or drama. The stand out performance was that of Micheal Keaton though. If people are wondering if he can step back in the role of “Beetlejuice” need not worry. His performance of wild eyed and loud Internet personality, Monarch convinces me that Keaton is more than ready. He's more than ready to step back into the spotlight. He turns every line, gesture and facial expression to gold. Whenever he's on screen it is just a pure delight.
    It's time for a Keatonaissance!
    Now, I've played some Need for Speed in my day and seeing some of the elements of the games making their way onto the big screen was quite cool to see. From the car chases, maps, vehicles to even the colored lighting of certain “race tracks” were things I recognized from the game.  The most surprising thing is that little to almost no CGI was used for the race and chase scenes. It was all good ol' fashioned stunt driving and it was very spectacular indeed. That last race scene had me sitting on the edge of my seat. It's there where the movie truly delivers on its promise.
    Real stunts and explosions!
    So, yes it is cliched. Yes, the characters are barely even real people but I'll be a son of a motherless goat if I said it wasn't a whole lot of fun. The stunts are breathtaking and the cinematography is gorgeous. Yes, It is an amusing film but for that video game movie “Curse” to be broken it has to do a lot better. Need for speed made some considerable cracks in that wall though. We're almost there. 

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