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Blu-ray Review: 'Need for Speed'

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The Film:

There used to be a tradition in cinema of having great car chases embedded in a film with a riveting plot and unforgettable characters. Think back to the films of the 60s and 70s when we had some of the most breathtaking chases ever put to film in movies like “Bullitt” and “The French Connection.” Nowadays, the tables have turned to where we have plots built around cars going fast, with the former being much more of an afterthought. You need look no further than the never-ending “Fast and Furious” franchise for evidence of this, where the entire reason the film was made was so that they could have cars zooming back and forth. That being said, at the very least, these films have tried to include a plot, no matter how ludicrous or just downright silly they may be. Now we come to “Need for Speed,” an adaptation of the popular video game series, where, believe it or not, things have managed to take an even worse turn.

The film follows Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul), a mechanic who just happens to be really good at racing cars. After a friend of his is killed in a race with his rival (Dominic Cooper), Tobey sets out to drive across the country to participate in a race held in a secret location in hopes of getting some revenge for his fallen comrade. With a new lightning-fast car from his new companion Julia (Imogen Poots), and with help from his fellow mechanic friends, he must make his way from New York to California in record time, dodging cops and others trying to stop him along the way. Then, of course, there’s the actual race to deal with.

“Need for Speed” is a film that takes monotony to a new level. Not that anyone really expected such a film to have much plot, but they could have at least tried. If the people writing “Fast and Furious” can do it, there’s no reason screenwriter George Gatins couldn’t. Instead, what he’s done is put a bunch of car chases and races into one film with barely anything to hold them together. Granted, the action scenes are done well, but the tediousness of it all catches up with it very quickly, leaving you with no reason to care about anything happening in the film. However, let’s face it, this is a film made for motorheads. It has lots of cars, and it has them going really fast, so there is a good chance that they will find something to enjoy about it.

Everyone else will be bored silly, waiting for the extremely bloated runtime of 131 minutes to come to an end. I’ll repeat that: the film is 131 minutes. A film with practically no plot to speak of, focusing on nothing but cars speeding down road after road, stretches on for over two hours. I think it goes without saying, but there was absolutely no need for such length, especially since it doesn’t have the material to fill even half that time. If there is one saving grace to be found in the film, it’s that Aaron Paul is continuing to find work after his massive success on “Breaking Bad,” though he definitely needs to be a better judge of scripts in the future. “Need for Speed” may make for an exciting video game, but this attempt to bring it to the screen needed so much more than merely what the title promises.

Video/Audio:

“Need for Speed” arrives on Blu-ray in a 2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of fantastic quality. This release offers a bright and sharp picture, giving you an optimal look at all of the cars and stunts contained within. Likewise, the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio has been given outstanding treatment, allowing you to hear all the various car sounds in perfect clarity. Overall, nothing out of the ordinary to report here, leaving you with just about the best quality you could hope for.

Special Features:

  • Audio Commentary featuring Director Scott Waugh and Actor Aaron Paul
  • Capturing Speed: Making an Authentic Car Movie
  • Ties that Bind
  • The Circus is in Town
  • Monarch & Maverick Outtakes
  • The Sound of Need for Speed
  • Deleted Scenes

Starting off with the commentary, it’s unfortunate to find that Waugh and Paul don’t really have anything to say about the film other than to talk about the cars involved. Most of what’s included here are featurettes, but sadly only a couple of them are worth watching, those being “Capturing Speed” and “The Circus is in Town.” These take you through the making of the film, showing you lots of behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew. The others are rather unnecessary and could have easily been left off, particularly the unfunny outtakes.

Conclusion:

“Need for Speed” is an extremely hollow and tedious film that has nothing to offer to anyone except the most avid of car junkies. With an inexcusable runtime of over two hours, you’ll be feeling the need to turn it off well before the finish line is in sight. Many video game adaptations are doomed to fail when brought to the big screen, usually because the writers just haven’t been able to find the right plot when transferring it from one medium to another. However, it’s rare to see one where the writer seems completely oblivious to what they’re doing, resulting in nothing but a chaotic and noisy mess.

Score: 2/5

Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.

Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: Divergent, Noah, Dom Hemingway, Transcendence, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn, Cesar Chavez, Rio 2, Under the Skin, Open Grave, Deadly Eyes, Jodorowsky's Dune, Lake Placid, Nymphomaniac, Afflicted, House of Cards: Season Two, The Lego Movie, Ernest & Celestine, 13 Sins, Joe, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Tim's Vermeer, Alan Partridge, RoboCop (2014), Alexander: The Ultimate Cut

Now playing in theaters: Get on Up, How to Train Your Dragon 2

Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.

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