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‘Need for Speed’ is fast as advertised

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Need for Speed

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I’ll cut to it: There’s a secret race, the DeLeon, a winner-takes-all headed by the mysterious online shock jock, Monarch (Michael Keaton). Tobey (Aaron Paul) is a just-released felon, framed and bent on revenge. Throw in a ton of fast cars and there you have the storyline for “Need for Speed.”

But most all, “Need for Speed” (N4S) is a car flick for car lovers. There’s plenty of references to great car movies sprinkled throughout. The film opens in a drive-in movie theater with the famous “Bullitt” chase scene in hilly San Francisco already underway. Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats are on full display (and mentioned at the closing credits, hinting at a sequel). There’s a Dukes of Hazzard-esque car jump scene (sorry, no ’69 Charger here). A copper gets the proverbial rug pulled out from under the car (okay, rear axle ala “American Graffiti”). Even a late-‘70s black “Bandit” Trans Am – screaming chicken graphic on the shaker hood and all – makes a cameo, being passed by on the highway. A mustachioed driver looks down at his speedometer and it reads only 60 MPH!

In a film such as this, product placement is on full display. Continental Tire is an obvious choice, but most important, Ford Mustang takes the lead role from even Tobey the Driver himself. A tricked out Shelby Mustang, in a nod to the late, great Carroll Shelby, gets most of the screen time. The supercharged ‘Stang is painted silver (like a bullet) with twin hood scoops and racing stripes. Throw in some oversized wheels and fat tires and you have a stunning contemporary American muscle car.

Oh, the film ends with Tobey being picked up in an all-new red 2015 Mustang 5.0 liter GT.

Besides the beautiful rides – which are mostly exotic supercars – the characters are good looking, too. Imogen Poots plays the hot blond co-pilot, Julia, but the majority of the cast features, uh, cute men (almost boyish) playing GQ’ed mechanics and gearheads. Ironically the scruffiest of the bunch is the lead, Tobey (Aaron Paul), but these pretty faces are here to draw in more female viewers. For example, Finn’s (Rami Malek) strip-down in the office to join his blue-collar friends outside is a riot.

Director Scott Waugh (“Act of Valor”) handles the action deftly, with choreographed street racing filmed seemingly through mostly live-action shots. Although there’s some CGI in here, it’s hard to tell when and where, a good thing. The camera is routinely mounted inside the cockpit in chase scenes, emulating that “Bullitt” backseat look.

In a radio interview with Dan Patrick from the Dan Patrick Show, Aaron Paul noted that he was given the ’68 Grand Torino as a gift, which was his favorite car from the movie. Paul also confessed he owns a ’65 Shelby Cobra.

Overall, N4S is better than expected... or advertised. Though not quite up to speed, character-wise, compared to the “Fast & Furious” franchise which is more gritty and violent, N4S is a fun-filled actionfest that doesn't take itself too seriously. Sure, it’s formulaic and cliques abound, but it’s an adaption of a video game after all. The cars are the stars here.

In all likelihood, you're looking at the next big entry (franchise, perhaps?) in the car flick genre.

For more information on Dreamworks Pictures’ “Need for Speed,” visit the official movie site:

http://www.theneedforspeedmovie.com/

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