Need for Speed Review

poster from the Walt Disney Pictures film Need for Speed

My brother and I were all set to see Grand Budapest Hotel this weekend. Then I opened up the theater schedule and the only new movie playing was Need for Speed. In 3D. While I don’t hate cars (Top Gear is one of my favorite shows) I do hate dumb things. And this movie is based on a video game with no actual people in it.

A street racer jailed on a false manslaughter charge drives a one of a kind car across the country to defeat the real killer in a secret street race.

With the plot and character motivations tenuous at best, the real reason to watch Need for Speed is the cars. Though it does feature non-CGI race action and European supercars like the Bugatti Veyron, Lamborghini Elemento, and Koenigsegg Agera, it’s a shame that the star of this movie is a boring old Ford Mustang (GT500). For that we can probably blame sponsorship and the fact that the movie is American.


Taking second billing to the Mustang are Aaron Paul as Tobey Marshall (the hero) and Dominic Cooper as Dino Brewser (the villain). Tobey is the silent-but-we’re-supposed-to-care-anyway type, which I initially thought must be a clever take on the game’s silent protagonist… until I looked up the game and found out it had no people.

Tobey Marshall vs Dino Brewster in the Walt Disney Pictures film Need for Speed

DINO: “What’s going on in that head of yours, Tobey?”
ME: Nothing, apparently.

Tobey owns a mechanic shop with the other members of his boy band: Benny (Scott Mescundi), a pilot/overly opinionated GPS; Finn (Rami Malek), a car tuning prodigy and spontaneous nudist; Joe (Ramon Rodriguez), the crew chief, and Little Pete (Harrison Gilbertson), who has visions (what??).

Need for Speed boy band

Because the shop is in danger of being repossessed, they reluctantly agree to work for big-time NASCAR driver Dino by restoring a super-special old Mustang supposedly worked on by Carroll Shelby before he died. They unveil the super special car at a super special car show and: SURPRISE! It looks like every other Mustang ever.

Custom Carroll Shelby Mustang GT500 from the Walt Disney Pictures film Need for Speed

Oooh ahhh. Look Mom, it has STRIPES.

Nevertheless the car attracts the attention of Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots), a car buyer for a rich dude who gets her kicks by asking dumb questions of auto mechanics so they’ll think she’s a moron.

Tobey rescues Julia from the Walt Disney Pictures film Need for Speed

So, like, how many wheels does it have?

The car sells for almost three million dollars and Douchebag Dino offers to race with Tobey in some Koenigseggs to see who gets the entire profit. They let Tobey’s little buddy Pete race with them so Dino can kill him and finally start the movie for real.

Koenigsegg Agaras from the Walt Disney Pictures film Need for Speed

Go on without me, you guys!

After little Petey’s fiery crash, the movie seems to remember that Aaron Paul is a serious actor who has won serious awards, and lingers on his screaming face for two unintentionally hilarious minutes as Tobey reacts to his buddy’s death.

Aaron Paul tries to be a serious actor from the Walt Disney Pictures film Need for Speed

Petey NOOOOOO *sob* you were my favorite member of One Direction

In a twist of plot too ridiculous to contemplate, all 3,000 people Tobey, Dino, and Pete pass on the road during their illegal street race completely fail to notice Dino’s fire engine red Koenigsegg and Tobey ends up taking the fall for Pete’s ‘accident.’ When he gets out of jail, Tobey’s mission in life becomes to get his revenge on Dino… by beating him in a secret car race called the De Leon hosted by a weird internet radio DJ character named Monarch (Michael Keaton).

Michael Keaton as Monarch the DJ in the Walt Disney Pictures film Need for Speed

Yeah. WHAT?!

To win the race he has to borrow back the Mustang from Julia, who comes along to protect her boss’ investment. Annoyingly, she can’t seem to decide if she’s a badass driver and car expert or helpless damsel in distress whose goal in life is to be boinked by a hero. They have 45 hours to drive the Mustang from New York to California while simultaneously attracting enough attention to earn an invitation to the secret car race.

the Mustang is airborne from the Walt Disney Pictures film Need for Speed

And that is how we wrecked the car before we even got to the race.

Dino uses Monarch’s radio show to hire car-assassins to take out Tobey before he gets to California, because obviously Tobey causing the deaths of police officers in 12 states would be boring unless some meatheads also show up in a Hummer. Tobey’s escapes defy both belief and physics.

Helicopter carries car from the Walt Disney Pictures film Need for Speed

And that’s how we ripped off the roof of the car and plunged to our fiery deaths in a canyon.

The purpose of Monarch in the De Leon is unclear, as he doesn’t supply the prize (winner keeps all the cars used in the race) or keep the roads clear of cops while the race is going on (because a regular supercar race isn’t exciting without a police chase). But that doesn’t stop people from turning up and wrecking their cars and/or killing themselves and half of the California Highway Patrol trying to win.

Tobey Marshall is arrested the Walt Disney Pictures film Need for Speed

Congratulations. You win six flaming heaps of carbon fiber and a one way ticket to San Quentin.

You could argue that because every street race in the movie results in deaths, car wrecks, and/or jail, the movie is making sure dumbass kids don’t run over anyone’s grandmother drag racing their parents’ Priuses on the way home, but I think that might give the movie too much credit.

Cop cars blow up in the Walt Disney Pictures film Need for Speed

MOVIE: Haha boom boom FWOAR school bus!!

So who should see this movie? Ummmm…. well… anyone who’s got 14 dollars too many. People who really really like Mustangs with stripes on them. And any Breaking Bad fan who looked at Jesse Pinkman and thought: this actor’s talents are wasted on serious roles. He should be in a Fast and Furious movie.

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