Need for Speed: “PG-13” (2 hr. 10 min)
Directed by: Scott Waugh
Based on the eponymous videogame from Electronic Arts, this Fast & Furious lite flick is a story that chronicles a near-impossible (and highly unlikely) cross-country race against time, that (apparently) begins as a mission for revenge, but winds up proving to be one of redemption (or so we are lead to believe). In a last attempt to save his struggling garage from foreclosure, blue-collar mechanic Tobey Marshall (Paul) reluctantly partners with a wealthy, arrogant ex-NASCAR driver Dino Brewster (Cooper) to finish building the prototype Mustang that famed racing driver and automotive designer Carroll Shelby was working on when he died. The deal is if Marshall finishes the car, he will get a portion of the sale of the car. Well (hard as this may be to swallow), he not only finishes the car, but somehow makes it faster than Shelby had originally intended.
After the sale goes through, the two ex-friends get into a pissing contest about who is the better driver, so Brewster challenges Marshall to a one-on-one street race, however, a third friend, Little Pete (Harrison Gilbertson) also joins in the race. Unfortunately for Little Pete, he gets forced off the road by Brewster and dies in a fiery crash. Marshall gets implicated in the death as Brewster drives off leaving the scene of the accident, and gets sent to jail for two years. Upon his release Marshall is set on revenge and plans to take down Brewster in the high-stakes (and totally illegal street race) the De Leon race which is akin to the Super Bowl of underground racing. The race is apparently arranged by the mysterious Monarch (Michael Keaton — who, along with his appearance in the RoboCop reboot) is enjoying a return to screen-time performing after too long a time on TV, and voice work in videogames and animated films).
However, to get there in time (as well as have a car to race once he gets there), Marshall must run a high-octane, action-packed gauntlet; dodging cops coast-to-coast, all the while dealing with fallout from a dangerous bounty that Brewster put on his car. With his loyal crew and the surprisingly resourceful Julia Bonet (Poots) — who purchased the Shelby from Brewster in the first place — as allies, Marshall defies odds (and logic) at every turn in order to prove that even in the flashy world of exotic supercars, the underdog can still finish first.
Needless to say (and as you readers may expect), we had a number of critical issues with this flick. Sure, sure it was a fun ride and all, but so much of it simply defied logic, common sense, and, well storytelling that we are almost (almost) surprised that it got green-lit in the first place:
1) There were clearly three (not two) cars in the race that killed little Pete, even a cursory investigation by donut-besotted cops would have turned that up
2) The two cars that were found were owned by Brewster (again, and easy thing to determine)
3) Some kid in some back-water garage is going to out-engineer Carroll Shelby? Even I don’t believe that
4) 44 hours to get from Armonk, NY to San Francisco, CA, (not all that hard at approximately 68 MPH), but a cross-country plane trip would have taken less time
5) How is it in this age of über-surveillance can no law enforcement agency in the country find this custom-made, silver Shelby Mustang running between 60 & 130 MPH as it rips across the US? (Especially as much of the run is live streaming on the Internet.) Seriously?
There’s more, but why bother, as we are clearly not meant to take the film seriously. This is so a “Check your brain at the door” film, only real car enthusiasts will shine it on, as it is simply too unbelievable for them to process. Personally, we suggest the original Gone in 60 Seconds, or even (a personal favorite of ours) Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.