Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Movie Review: Need For Speed

Words by Ben

So you, like many of us out there, have been a fan of the Need For Speed games for a while. You've raced virtually all of the rides on racetracks around the globe and taken down virtual cities full of cops who want nothing more but to put spikes strips under your wheels. You have survived all this and won race after race. 

Yet recently, a new achievement has topped your to do list: watch the NFS movie.

The trailer made your blood boil, with Koenigseggs racing Bugattis and P1s, and a rather interesting Mustang flying around. 

Yeah, flying around. We'll get back to that later.

So you go and spend the 10-odd bucks needed to buy the movie ticket and get ready to enjoy an adrenaline-filled car movie like there hasn't been any other before.

Except that there have been many other car movies like this before. They are called Fast and Furious. And there's already six of them.

The story is about Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul - Breaking Bad), seeking revenge on Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper - Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Captain America: The First Avenger) for killing his friend, Little Pete (Harrison Gilbertson), and setting him up for it.

With this aim in mind, Tobey goes on a rampage across the US at the wheel of the last car Carroll Shelby was working on before his death: the last Shelby Mustang.

Accompanied by the car's owner Julia Maddon (Imgoen Poots - V for Vendetta, 28 Weeks Later), he heads to San Francisco to take part in a special by invite race called De Leon, where he will take his revenge.

The De Leon is organised by a rich retired racer known as Monarch (Michael Keaton), who runs his own car-centric radio channel, and tries to provide a bit of poetry to the overall movie.

There are many wrong and frustrating things about this movie, which, I find, discredits it as a proper car flick and makes it no more than an average action movie. Here are 6 things that annoyed me during the 2h10 mins of Need For Speed:

1/ The build scene

When Tobey's team are given the work-in-progress Shelby Mustang, we expect a good build scene that will show the hero's team dynamics, as well as make all motorheads out there discover the inner workings of the hero car.

Well don't expect much, as all you see is a glimpse of a half-built work-in-progress on a flat bed truck, and a fully built car in the very next scene. The transition is so fast that you'll first think it's another car.

2/ Unbreakable hero car and fantastic physics

As with most hollywood films now, they can't seem to find ways to make a movie feel exciting without having flying cars, vehicles that explode when crashing and overall wonky physics.

Here's an example: when Tobey jumps the Shelby Mustang over traffic jammed streets, lands on the front bumper at an angle that would obliterate the radiator and the front axles, and probably also bend the chassis at interesting angles, yet he still races away without a scratch on the car.

There are many such scenes along the movie, which the Mustang shrugs off with barely a few scratches. But it's when a semi truck T-bones it at low speeds (its bumper won't even have a scratch) that the Mustang calls it a day, rolls over 3 or 4 times and is finally put out of its misery.

3/ Bad acting

Don't expect deep characters in this movie. As the movie sets in very quickly without giving much background references to its characters (other that the fact that Tobey and Dino were somehow childhood rivals), what you'll get are a flurry of one-dimensional personalities that try to make the story stick.

Aaron Paul tries hard to come about as a brooding man with a heavy and sad past, yet only manages to look like a man suffering from heavy constipation. Harrison Gilbertson's (Little Pete) acting is no better, and it's clear from the start that he's going to die, I was only surprised he lasted this long in the movie.

4/ Money for nothing?

As Tobey clearly explains to his crew, their garage is broke and the bank is threatening to come after them, which is why they decide to take on the job to finish the Shelby Mustang.

I am still trying to understand how they managed to build the custom body of the car, as well as throw in a HUD that makes a jet fighter shy away in shame (reference to the NFS video games), rear view cameras, internet connection and touch screen control panel, when they seemed to only have $5,000 they earned street racing.

5/ De Leon?

The final race, De Leon, is by invitation only, and its organiser, Monarch, is said to be a man hard to reach. Yet the heroes (and villain) spend their time contacting him at the touch of a button to talk to him or send him videos.

The lineup for the De Leon are million dollar cars: Bugatti Veyron Super Sports, Lamborghini Sesto Elemento, Saleen S7, McLaren P1, GTA Spano and Koenigsegg Agera R. The rules are straightforward: winner takes all.

Anyone in their right mind, however rich they are, would have a clear idea on the game: finish first and claim the bragging rights, as well as the cars. Well not in Need For Speed, where all the racers seem to want is to destroy the other cars in a last-man-standing race.

The race itself is so secret that its start and finish will only be revealed the night before, to avoid the cops getting wind of it, I suppose. Yet it seems that all the cops in California know where it is, or maybe they have received private invitations too?

Which leads me to the final point:

6/ Overly aggressive cops

I don't stay in the US, so I might be under informed on this, but I have doubts about the way cops make use of the state money when dealing with illegal races. I am not sure that using their vehicles as unmanned rams is standard procedure, but then again, let me know if i'm wrong.

One thing I do know is that cops do not magically appear along the roadside, nor do they live in the woods, near lone empty roads, hiding behind trees in wait of eventual hypercar races.

Overall, the movie really shows that its roots are based on a video game, which will surely entertain the masses. Take note, however that Need For Speed is not about the car culture, but about overly rich thugs causing accidents and trashing million-dollar cars for the fun of it.

While you might think my rants are a bit too much, it is sadly because of such overly-Hollywoodised movies that motorheads around the world get a bad rep. I only wish this could change.

If you are looking for a good movie to satiate your car culture fix, carry on, you have better things to do with 10-odd dollars and 2 hours of your time. If you're in it for the car porn, well, at least you get to see some pretty rare cars tearing up the asphalt, the air, and the laws of physics.


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