If you’ve been a long-term fan of the “Rob’s Car Movie Review” series, you have probably noticed that the majority of films I have reviewed are older ones, with the bulk of them dating back to the ’70s and ’80s. There are a number of reasons for this: the car movie genre was at its peak then, so there were more such films made. It is also my personal opinion that American filmmaking was simply better back then, thus yielding more films I find worth reviewing.
Having said that, there have been a few later-day movies that have fit the profile to be reviewed on these virtual pages. I’m going to add to that number with the highly publicized 2014 offering, Need for Speed – the subject of this month’s edition of Rob’s Car Movie Review!
Need for Speed was a co-production between Reliance Entertainment, Bandito Brothers and DreamWorks Pictures, and was distributed in the U.S. by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It was directed by Scott Waugh, based on a script by George Gatins that was adapted from the smash hit video game of the same name.
The movie features Aaron Paul, at the height of his Breaking Bad fame, and features an appealing cast of young supporting players including Dakota Johnson, Imogen Poots, Dominic Cooper, Harrison Gilbertson, Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi, and a cameo performance by Michael Keaton.
Paul plays Tobey Marshall, a former racecar driver who is now struggling to keep his late father’s auto shop afloat, despite being a superb performance-car builder and tuner. To make ends meet, Tobey and his gang participate in illegal street races where he is a regular winner.
At one such race, he is approached by former rival Dino Brewster (Cooper) to finish the build of a bespoke Shelby Mustang that Carroll Shelby was working on when he died. For completing the task, Tobey will get 25 percent of the car’s predicted selling price of $3 million.
Despite reservations of dealing with the shady Dino, Tobey has no choice but to accept the job if he wants to keep the shop alive. The completed car is displayed in New York City, where Julia Maddon (Poots) agrees to purchase the car for a client, provided it can be proven that the car will exceed 230 mph as Tobey claims. Despite Dino saying no to the test, Tobey brings the car to a local track and takes it up to 234 mph, convincing Julia to buy the car.
Angered that Tobey disobeyed him, Dino challenges Tobey and his friend Pete (Gilbertson) to a race in three identical hypercars and offers the entire purchase price of the Mustang to the winner. If Tobey loses though, he forfeits his 25 percent share.
The three begin to race illegally on a freeway. Dino, realizing that he is about to lose to Pete, bumps Pete’s car, sending it into a fatal collision. Dino leaves the scene, and Tobey is ultimately convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years in prison.
Upon his release Tobey immediately sets out to avenge Pete’s death. He approaches Julia and asks her if he can borrow the Shelby so he can enter the De Leon, a hypercar race in California that Dino is entered in, organized by a mysterious figure, Monarch (Keaton).
Julia’s client consents under the condition that Julia accompanies Tobey across the country to get the car to the De Leon. Tobey agrees, and the two set out for San Francisco in the Shelby.
Unbeknownst to them, Dino has gotten wind of Tobey’s plan to enter the De Leon, and offers up his super-rare Lamborghini to anyone who can stop Tobey from reaching California in time for the competition. A cross-country race against time and Dino’s conscripts ensues, with Tobey’s ability to enter the race and beat Dino left in the balance.
I’ll make it clear right off the bat – I am not a fan of movies based on video game franchises. However, I must say I was pleasantly surprised by Need for Speed. While certainly no Stanley Kubrick movie, it nonetheless succeeds in keeping you engaged and provides for an abundance of thrills.
The filmmaking is well above par for a movie of this sort. The cinematography is superb, the picture and sound editing top-notch, and the acting well-done, especially Aaron Paul who I had already become a big fan of from binge-watching Breaking Bad.
I also appreciate the fact that (a few blatant CGI moments aside)- the majority of the driving action was performed the old-fashioned way, likely at the insistence of director Waugh, who was himself a Hollywood stuntman.
If I had to pick something to snipe at, it would probably be the script. There are numerous instances of actors having to utter lines that are positively cringe-worthy. Further, there are some fairly ludicrous moments scattered throughout the film that you have to willingly suspend your disbelief on before you can enjoy it. I was able to, but you may not.
What is beyond reproach in Need for Speed though are the cars.
The automotive star of the film is undoubtedly the Shelby, which in actuality was an aesthetically modified 2013 Shelby GT500 Super Snake Widebody. Looking resplendent in silver with blue racing stripes, the car must have been a hoot for the stunt drivers to pilot, considering the car’s 5.8-liter supercharged V8 that packed 850 hp. Boy does that thing sound good in the movie.
Equally mean is the Lamborghini that Dino offers up to the person who can stop Tobey’s progress, and ultimately races in the De Leon. It’s a 2011 Sesto Elemento, a hyper-rare supercar that has a 5.2-liter, 562 hp V10, which can propel the mostly carbon-fiber beast to 60 mph in just 2.3 seconds. Only 30 examples of the Sesto Elemento were made at a price tag of $2.92 million, making it the most expensive Lamborghini ever built at the time. Quite a car.
The three supercars that Dino, Tobey and Pete race are the Koenigsegg Agera RS, a car that I never found to be aesthetically pleasing, but one that certainly impressed me with its 5.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 which produced 1,124 hp and 885 lb-ft of torque. That lump propelled the Agera R to 284.55 mph at an official test, making the Koenigsegg the fastest car in the world.
The De Leon features an impressive collection of insane cars as well, including the aforementioned Sesto Elemento, Bugatti Veyron Super Sport World Record Edition, Saleen S7, Spano GTA, and a McLaren P1. Scattered throughout the film are at least a hundred more cars you or I would give a back molar for.
In conclusion, Need for Speed is an absolutely preposterous film that clearly shows its over-the-top video game lineage. If you get past that aspect though, it’s a well-crafted, rollicking, car-obsessed popcorn movie that is a hoot to watch. As such, I give Need for Speed six-and-a-half out of seven pistons.