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Need for Speed (2014)
Touchstone Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/5/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/28/2014
I know I'm dating myself here, but my first video game console was an Atari 2600. Those early games didn't have plots or stories, simply goals -- Shoot tihs, dodge that. It wasn't until several years later that I was exposed to games which had stories and I found them fascinating. The tales were often very in-depth, like novels or movies, complete with fleshed-out characters and twist endings. It was very easy to look at some of these games and imagine them being translated into movies, and we've seen this occur on many occasions (Although, for some reason, the filmmakers often insist on changing or throwing out the stories from the games.) However, when I played the Need for Speed racing games, I never thought of them as films, as they really don't have a story -- You simply try to win races. But, someone got the bright idea to bring us yet another video game movie and now we have Need for Speed.
Aaron Paul stars in Need for Speed as Tobey Marshall, a race car mechanic and driver who lives in a small, rural town in New York state. He runs a repair/ speed shop along with his friends Benny (Scott Mescudi), Finn (Rami Malek), Joe (Ramon Rodriguez), and Pete (Harrison Gilbertson), while also entering local street-races. Home-town boy made good Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), who has become a racing star, approaches Tobey about building a custom Shelby Mustang for him. Tobey accepts and shows up Dino with a test drive in front of the car's potential buyer and his assistant, Julia (Imogen Poots). Following this, Dino challenges Tobey to a race, in which Pete gets involved, and the duel ends in tragedy, landing Tobey in prison. Two years later, Tobey emerges from jail ready to clear his name. Julia offers to help him enter an illegal race called the De Leon in order to get revenge on Dino.
Again, the Need for Speed games which I've played have a concept at best, but they certainly don't include any sort of progressive story or detailed characters. You pick a car and you drive as fast as you can. (And if you're like me, you hold down the accelerator the entire time.) Need for Speed smacks of a situation where someone purchased a license -- the Need for Speed video game franchise -- and someone else had a script and they decided to marry the two. Other than high-end exotic sports cars being chased by the police, I didn't see any other connection between the movies and the games.
Of course, you don't have to be a movie expert to see that Need for Speed is simply an attempt to mimic the (inexplicable) success of Universal's Fast & Furious franchise. While the two entries in that series which I've seen weren't very good, at least they made sense. Need for Speed is all over the place and shows an incredibly lack sense of pacing. All of the press-material which I'd read about the movie referred to Tobey as an "ex-con", so I expected the movie to open with him having served time. I was shocked to see that it takes nearly 45 minutes for Tobey to go to jail. This is a perfect example of the bizarre structure of this two-hour (Yes, you read that right.) movie. The first act goes on forever and could have easily been summarized in mere minutes. Instead, it just stretches on and on and finally the plot arrives, but things still don't improve. The De Leon, which is organized by a hermit named Monarch (Michael Keaton), is never really explained, and it's a bit of a stretch that racing cross-country to enter the event will clear Tobey's name. (Although, thanks to good luck and coincidence, an opportunity does arise.) The winner of the race then takes ownership of all of the other cars...which may have been wrecked during the sprint, so...yea?
Of course, if you've come to something called Need for Speed for story, they you are barking up the wrong tree. We've come her for the cars, right? The attraction of the Need for Speed games is that they give the player the opportunity to drive dozens (or more) of exotic cars. The car action in the film ends up being a split decision. Former stuntman turned director Scott Waugh does a great job staging the race scenes and (as noted below) the film utilizes real cars and the actors are often driving them. However, the film disappoints when it comes to exotic cars. The words Shelby Mustang may be impressive in print and the car would be nice to study up-close, but when it's speeding by at 200 mph, it looks like any other Mustang. The rare Koenigsegg Agera makes an appearance in the first half and we get some nice cars in the filed at De Leon, but they aren't on-screen long enough, nor are they the focus of the film, which is a severe letdown.
So, Breaking Bad veteran Aaron Paul comes off one of the most lauded (inexplicably) TV series of the past decade and walks into this train-wreck? Why? Paul is fine here, but all he's really asked to do is brood, while looking down the whole time, or act like he's driving with a determined face. Despite some impressive stunt work (and one jump which make Bo and Luke Duke hang their heads in shame), the movie is simply too long and too stupid for anyone's good. If you have any interest in Need for Speed, skip the movie and jump into one of the games.
Need for Speed may have some of its facts about iPad use in military prisons wrong on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Touchstone Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mpbs. The image is undeniably sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The picture is very crisp, which lends it an impressive amount of depth. (Why do bad movies always look so good?) The colors looks fantastic (someone did a good job of picking car colors) and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good and we can make out textures on objects. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. It really shows off the work which went into the mix, as we are bombarded by the sounds of the cars. In fact, things get a big overwhelming during the race sounds, as we are faced with a wall of sound. The effects are detailed and we can pick out individual sounds from the rear at times. The stereo effects work especially well, most notably when the cars drive by. The subwoofer effects show off the deep rumbles of the engines.
The Need for Speed Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Scott Waugh and Aaron Paul. "Capturing Speed: Making an Authentic Car Movie" (10 minutes) is a brief making-up featurette which focuses on the fact that real cars were used, as opposed to CG cars. This is loaded with behind-the-scenes footage of the cars being built and the stunts being performed, as well as comments from those involved, including Steven Spielberg (who should have known better). "Ties That Bind" (12 minutes) focuses on how Director Scott Waugh comes from a stuntman legacy and his connection with other stunt families. The fact that the film was shot across the entire U.S. is chronicled through pictures and video in "The Circus is in Town" (11 minutes). "Monarch & Maverick Outtakes" (2 minutes) is a reel of ad-libs. The Disc contains four DELETED SCENES which run about 5 minutes, complete with introductions by Waugh. "The Sound of Need for Speed" (9 minutes) focuses on the score and the sound effects of the film.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long