Posts Tagged ‘Need For Speed’

Need For Speed

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Need for Speed

Rated PG-13

for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language

In 1994 Electronic Arts unleashed on the world one of the most successful video-game franchises of all time. The Sony PlayStation, Sega Saturn and 3DO were the first platforms to take on the title that would eventually spawn 22 sequels. Need for Speed set the standard for what racing based video games were to be going forward. Over time the gameplay was modified, the graphics improved and the physics of cars included but always true to the core; go as hard and fast as you can to win the race in some of the most iconic exotic cars ever made by man.

There are few things as exciting or iconic in movies as the car chase. A good chase scene can elevate an okay movie to the good or great level pretty quickly. Good use of high-speed cars engaged in precision driving and performing, often impossible, stunts can make up for most any flaw an action movie has. The car chase is what Need for Speed used to get through to audiences and successfully adapt an iconic video-game into a feature film.

The movie is about a street racer, Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul), who lives in upstate New York. Marshall is betrayed by a former rival turned business partner, Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), and left to go to prison for the consequences of a street race that went horribly wrong. When Marshall is paroled, upon completing his sentence, he sets out on a mission to get revenge by taking out Brewster on the biggest stage in street racing, The DeLeon.

The stars of this movie are billed as; Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper and Scott Mescudi (Kid Kudi) but I would dare to say that the real stars are listed here under the heading “Stunts.” The 40+ men and women that made up the stunt and precision driving teams are what made this movie as thrilling as it is. In an effort to be as real as possible, most of the racing scenes in the movie are done on closed courses with real cars being driven to their limits by these amazing professionals.

If the stuntmen and women are the stars, then the best supporting nod has to go to the menu of amazing vehicles used in the story. In one scene the head of the DeLeon race, The Monarch (Michael Keaton), states that the combined value of the cars in his race is around $6 million and average 200mph. Yeah right! Maybe if you are getting some major discounts from the manufacturers and ride the brakes!

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Bugatti Veyron Super Sport – $2.5 million and a verified top speed of 265mph

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Koenigsegg Agera R – $1.7 million and an estimated top speed of over 270mph

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Lamborghini Sesto Elemento – $2.9 million and a verified top speed of 205mph

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McLaren P1 – $1.3 million and its top speed is electronically capped at 220mph (It’s also a hybrid!)

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Saleen S7 – $500,000 and a verified top speed of 248mph

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GTA Spano – $725,000 and an estimated top speed of 220mph

Add all those up and you get… (Drumroll please) a whopping $9.65 million dollars in cars with an average top speed of around 240mph! Thank God the ones that were abused and wrecked were all replicas.

As impressive as that list of cars is, they are not all that appears. A modified 2014 Ford Mustang GT 500, that is rated at 900hp with a top end of 236mph, is the central car figure for most of the movie. There is also a bevy of classic muscle cars from the 60s and 70s that make appearances.

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With the sheer volume of cars that are featured in this movie it is easy to jump to the conclusion that this is just another Fast and Furious style movie; ”show a bunch of cars driving fast and add some special effects and hope it works.” The makers of Need for Speed went in a different direction with the way they portrayed the street racing scene and driving in general. The developers took the time to make sure this movie honors the great car chases of the past by focusing on realism as much as possible. Aside from two scenes where I shook my head and thought, “was that really necessary,” the movie uses driving skills and stunts that are very believable and realistic.

As a part of the respect to car chases from the past, you see Bullitt playing at a drive in an early scene, the Pontiac Trans-Am from Smokey and the Bandit makes an appearance, there is even a nod to the Blue Brothers movie. One of the more obscure references is a scene where the Mustang being driven by Marshall is being chased around and around a traffic circle a la The Dukes of Hazzard. Homages to Thelma and Louise and The Great Gatsby are also cool if you catch them and appreciate them. There are countless other subtle references to car chase movies from the past that appear in the dialogue as well.

One of the most important aspects of this movie that I found the most refreshing is in the way the story does not insult you intelligence or seem to be “on the take” from a car manufacturer. An example of what I mean is in the car chase in last year’s The Last Stand, there is no way on this round earth that a bone stock Camaro is going to run down an 1100hp Corvette Blue Demon. Need for Speed, delightfully, chooses to respect the knowledge of the fan base that this movie will appeal to most and not slap them in the face by having a Mustang torch the Veyron SS or anything absurd like that.

I would be remiss if I wrapped this up without really mentioning the various actors and acting. They all played their various roles well with no one really standing out as a positive or negative. I get the impression that they all accepted the fact that they were in a video game movie that was all about the driving and not about them. Aaron Paul as the hero, the brooding Tobey Marshall was a good fit. Dominic Cooper as the manipulative Dino Brewster was also easy to accept. Michael Keaton as The Monarch was fun. I specifically enjoyed the character Julie Maddon played by Imogen Poots, maybe it is just a screen crush or infatuation with the accent.

For the first time in 2014 I am going to put my seal of approval on a movie with no restrictions or caveats. Need for Speed is fun and worth the trip to the theatres, no questions asked.