I totally understand why they made a Need For Speed movie, I just will never understand why they didn’t bother to make a good Need For Speed movie. This movie so openly rips off the Fast And The Furious franchise I wouldn’t be surprised to learn the script started as a parody.
(Welcome back to Jalopnik Movie Club, where we take a look at cars in movies and movies about cars, and you write in with all of your hot takes. This week, we’re reviewing Need For Speed, a movie about how inadequate the prison system is at reforming repeat criminals!)
Need For Speed is a 2014 action street racing movie that has no confidence in itself. Despite starring Michael Keaton, at-the-time-white-hot Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, rising star Remi Malek, and artist Kid Cudi of all people, the movie manages to lack any charisma and none of the characters are remotely interesting.
The story focuses on Aaron Paul’s character, Tobey, who runs a small mechanic’s shop with a group of his friends, and street races on the side. But the bills are piling up now that his dad recently passed away, leading him on a desperate journey to save his reputation, avenge his fallen friend, and win enough money to save himself from going completely under.
It comes across as basic as it sounds. Aaron Paul makes the bold character choices of a grumbly smoker’s voice that doesn’t fit his look and a leather jacket. He mistakes a lack of all nuance for character coolness, and the rest of the cast isn’t much better.
The best scene of the movie is when Remi Malek’s character strips nude in his boring office job and escapes to go off and race cars with his friends. It’s great because it’s the only time a single person in this movie is even remotely relatable, and Malek is the only actor with any sort of charm.
My biggest issue with this movie is just how damn long it is. It’s over two hours of repetitive, boring, been-there-done-that storytelling. The movie takes all of its tonal clues from the later Fast And Furious franchise movies that obsess over friendship and family, without realizing that the FF franchise had a decade and multiple movies to build up its characters and relationships.
The worst part of the movie, though, is Michael Keaton’s character, who plays a podcast host? Or radio DJ? Or illegal racing organizer? Who was clearly thrown in only to narrate every single point of action or emphasis in this bare plot. Oh, the main character is about to win the last race?
Let’s have radio man talk about his big redemption moment, based on personal information he couldn’t possibly be aware of, as if he’s been watching the movie with us the entire time, which he wasn’t. It’s so obvious they wanted to hammer home to the viewers the emotion of the story, but if you have to constantly point it out for me, it’s clear something’s wrong.
The actual racing scenes are executed very well, from a filmmaking perspective. The establishing race is frustrating for me because every person is in a classic muscle car that would easily be worth almost six-figures at one of those televised auctions.
But the way the races are portrayed is exciting and video-game like, if video games could actually render damage in a realistic fashion. I really enjoyed it. The movie had a lot of effects where a car would crash and a piece would go flying right past the camera and it had me genuinely curious how they pulled this off without the entire crew dying multiple times.
Overall this movie wasn’t so bad it’s good, and it was good. I was bored the entire time, did not like nor relate to a single character, and did not fall for this movie’s bullshit trying to convince anyone that a Mustang is a 230-mph performance car worth $3 million. I laughed so hard at that. Get the fuck out of here.
That begs the question of who this movie is for, because clearly the writers think we’re all idiots. The studio greenlit a movie on the basis of large groups of people who seemingly like cars and car culture, and then feature street racing that doesn’t happen, high-tech tracking devices that these people couldn’t afford and even the military doesn’t have, and cars and terminology that is all laughable.
So is it for... everyone else? I don’t know. I don’t care. I didn’t like it. Maybe a Hot Wheels movie can do better.
That’s all from me, now let’s hear from those of you that emailed with your thoughts, opinions and hot takes about Need For Speed:
Aided by a handful of references to other car movies and a storyline that’s simple to follow, Need for Speed allowed me to enjoy this movie for what it is, a ten-year-old’s idea of his ultimate car daydream where he’s the hero brought to life.
You can almost say that the Jalopnik Movie Club prepared me to watch this movie. With a slightly heightened sense of awareness for car movie tropes, my radar was going off the charts to how many car movie cliches NFS went through. NFS opens up to what feels like the first nighttime race scene in “The Fast and the Furious.” If someone even mentioned “the importance of family” I would’ve lost it. Then there’s the personal vendetta to avenge Pete, I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to Jesse and his Jetta from F&F.
The list goes on and on. That cross-country drive was very “Vanishing point” with a hint of “The Cannon Ball Run.” Jumping in a canyon in a muscle car, that’s “Thelma and Louse.” Putting around San Francisco in a Mustang, I don’t even have to mention that one.
Finally, there’s the high dollar exotics. True to its video game roots, the car choices appeal to every age group. For kids, they’ll be drawn to the visceral look and sound of the cars while the older crowd will be drawn to the cars for similar reasons.
I’m glad a car movie like this was given the green light. It’s a fun watch for kids. For everyone else, it’s an opportunity to unwind and not take things too seriously.
In this movie we see the following: Beatlejuice hits the airwaves, Elliot Alderson hits on some babes, and Jesse Pinkman hits Howard Stark.
The racing film based on a video game series. It really turned out like almost every other game adaptation. They are always a lower budget shell in an attempt to amp up series fans and attempt to create a couple new ones. The deeper I dive into thought about Need for Speed the more disappointed I become. My NFS glory days took place from 1999-2005 skipping a title every year or two. The result is a film that’s alien to me.
There was so much this film could have been and yet it was based sort of on The Run, which by all efforts is on the low end of the series offerings in reviews. NFS to me was a premiere arcade game, slightly cartoonish but sharp and easily manageable. Yet the film is sort of the opposite. It’s too serious in certain ways and slightly dull. The story is of course far fetched and it leads to a clash with the presentation.
It’s a certain heart pounding absurdity that’s missing. It failed on the opportunity to have one the best police chases to be ever to be put on film. Where were the spike strips? The super pursuit cops?? The helicopter dropping explosive barrels??? What would it have taken for the MW E46 BMW GTR to make a cameo or have a story line with 2 antagonists (racer and cop)? The disappointment felt like giving a child a crayon asking him to draw the most amazing hypercar and it ends up as a Ford Mustang… imagined by Carroll Shelby.
I really wish this had been taken a completely different direction because I don’t feel it represents what NFS is to gamers or car enthusiasts. It could have used some homage and certainly better race and chase scenes. It just seems like it was made to a budget that didn’t allow it to progress to caliber it deserved.
Movie: C The acting is all right considering. It has a story that’s progressive but full of holes. Even with suspended belief it only just sort of works and includes a smattering of strange scenes for entertainment.
Car Movie: B+ The whole movie is about cars yes but as I detailed above I think it’s missing a couple key elements in relation to the games. Watch the intro to NFS (6) Hot Pursuit 2. That one and a half minute clip conjures more excitement than any of the driving scenes in the movie
And that wraps it up for this week’s Jalopnik Movie Club review! Thank you to everyone who wrote in with their takes, which I encourage you all to do for next week!
Speaking of next week, we’ll be reviewing 2014's Sicario, so be sure to get it watched and collect your thoughts, and write in with your opinions and hot takes to justin at jalopnik dot com.
In the meantime, sound off below about the good and bad of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and all of its wacky wonder, and see you all next week!