The cross-country road trip that comprises most of “Need for Speed” is based on one moral code held by all street racers: If someone wrecks and flips their car, the other driver always goes back to make sure they are okay. Ironically, this rule doesn’t seem to apply when the racers cause frequent accidents between other innocent bystanders driving legally or the cops who frequently wreck when giving chase.
Fortunately, “Need for Speed” doesn’t try to follow the same road as the “Fast & Furious” movies. Sure, everybody gathers before a street race, but in this world the place to be is the drive-in movie theater. There’s not a hydraulic in sight, and all the racers sit behind the wheels of restored cars from the 1960’s and 70’s. In fact, there is very much a 1960’s vibe throughout the first fifteen minutes, or at least until somebody pulls out a Playstation 3 controller.
“Need for Speed” does borrow some tried-and-true movie clichés. Tobey Marshall’s auto body shop is having money issues. So while he does somewhat reluctantly, this is what causes him to accept a job from Dino Brewster, a slick car dealership owner, fellow street racer, and the current beau of Tobey’s ex. Dino wants Tobey to restore a Shelby Mustang GT, and he’s willing to give him a good cut of the selling price of the rare car.
If anyone didn’t know by the trailers and TV spots that “Need for Speed” wasn’t meant to be taken all that seriously, this next point will prove it: Tobey ends up putting all the money he was supposed to be paid for the Mustang job on the line over a silly bit of smack-talk about who the better driver is. He ends up losing to Dino, and he ends up losing far more than the money. But when he gets out of prison two years later, he is quick to prove he hasn’t learned his lesson: his only focus is getting his hands on another car so he can race in the De Leon, a special race put on by a racing enthusiast podcaster(Michael Keaton). Amazing that while all the drivers are getting locked up, the organizer seems to get away scot-free, especially while he’s bragging about it all over the Internet.
The location of the race is secret, but Tobey’s friends somehow find out that the race will be in California. Hence, the cross country road trip, as Tobey is released from prison in New York State. The movie’s script is completely and utterly sophomoric; a shock considering first-time screenwriter George Gatins was a producer on “She’s Out of My League”, a film featuring many scenes of dialogue between a group of four friends. In “Need for Speed”, Tobey and his friends converse in bland generalities. Scott Mescudi, better known as the rapper Kid Cudi, seems to have the duty of comic relief. But aside from a scene where he hijacks a news station’s traffic helicopter during a broadcast, his constant babbling isn’t all that amusing.
Imogen Poots and Aaron Paul have something brewing in the chemistry department, even though it seems like he would choose another race any day over her. But the scene where she jumps into his arms and they pause, looking into each other’s eyes, is just too much. Especially when a state trooper is after them. If one can look past the gnarly dialogue, it’s easy to get caught up in all the high-speed chases. But if one tends to look past the entirely unnecessary 3D(don’t splurge for it) and tries to read Paul’s somewhat evolving expressions near the end of the movie(is that pain? Agony? Happiness?), the question has to be asked: was it all worth it?