Americana Road Racing

need_for_speed_ver3

Need for Speed

Director: Scott Waugh

Starring: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Michael Keaton, Rami Malek, Dakota Johnson, Ramon Rodriguez, Harrison Gilbert

Former stunt co-ordinator turned director Scott Waugh brings the EA video game Need for Speed to the big screen in awe-inspiring 3D. Teaming up TV actor raspy voice blue eyed Aaron Paul with the sultry more accomplished British actor Dominic Cooper in this cross-country road race thriller is big on action, devoid of any significant plot, but great on visual effects. Paul and Cooper play rival road racers Tobey Marshall and Dino Brewster who after a horrific accident in upstate New York challenge each other in flashy sports cars to an exclusive cross country road race with the finale happening in fabulous California.

Down on his luck Marshall teams up with a sassy British companion Julia Maddon played by Imogen Poots as they race across America stopping in the Mecca of Motorcars, the now debt ridden Detroit before finally reaching their destination on the West Coast, San Francisco, where Marshall, a constant fugitive will race in a private sponsored event through Northern California in terrain remotely resembling Big Sur. Michael Keaton (Robocop) plays the techno sussed race coordinator Monarch and Rami Malek and Scott Mescudi team up as Marshall’s race team assistants Finn and Benny. Watching Need for Speed especially in 3-D is like driving full throttle in a Mustang on crack!

The stunts are tremendous, the storyline dire, but then again this narrative originated on a video game, which does not always guarantee a smooth transition to cinema. The chemistry between Aaron Paul and Imogen Poots is barely palatable, made worse by a winding narrative which could have been edited to at least 90 minutes.

Naturally Waugh as director pays tribute to the 1968 film Bullitt starring Steve McQueen and Jacqueline Bissett even featuring a film clip within Need for Speed – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Lbs_nYW3-o . The biggest mystery besides the outlandish stunts performed in Need for Speed, is why an accomplished actor like Dominic Cooper would appear in such a popcorn film, but clearly there is a need for him to becoming better acquainted with American audiences. After Cooper’s superb turns in Lee Tamahori’s The Devil’s Double and opposite Keira Knightley in The Duchess, he perhaps needed to expand his action repertoire.

Need for Speed is clearly aimed at young male audiences and like the hugely successful The Fast and Furious franchise involves a lot of car chase sequences that no ordinary viewer should attempt on any suburban road.

FastandFurious 6

Unlike The Fast and the Furious, whose buddy-action movie formula got better as the franchise progressed from Miami to Rio to London, The Need for Speed feels like one long video game in 3D without the emotional punch of Nicholas Winding Refn’s brilliant car chase thriller Drive. Waugh’s Need for Speed is simply  great surface entertainment without much character development, but the locations and stunts will surely keep any petrol head sated for a while. Dakota Johnson soon to be seen in Fifty Shades of Grey along with Harrison Gilbert and Ramon Rodriguez round off the cast.

 

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