Wednesday 12 March 2014

Review: Need For Speed

World of Blackout Film Review

Need For Speed Poster

Need For Speed (3D)
Cert: 12A / 132 mins / Dir. Scott Waugh
WoB Rating: 3/7

I know I probably shouldn't expect too much from a game-to-movie conversion where the plot has always been secondary at best, and I didn't expect too much. Let's just say that the most impressive thing about Need For Speed is that screenwriter George Gatins has engineered an impeccable formula for storytelling…

Sub Need_For_Speed_Movie()
' © 2014 Dreamworks / Touchstone / Reliance
Dim N as FilmStructure
For N = 1 to 5
Talking = On
Blah blah plot exposition
Blah blah macho posturing
Blah blah Aaron Paul's furrowed brow
Talking = Off

Next N
End Sub

It's that simple, I'm afraid. The race/chase sequences are nicely shot and efficiently edited*1, and I'm very aware that those are exactly what the film is for, but each of the first four are relatively brief (with the finale being a decent length, at least), and too much of the film is reliant on weak writing, terrible scripting and atrocious acting. Aaron Paul and Dominic Cooper look embarrassed to be on set most of the time; a trait which seems to have bypassed Michael Keaton who filmed his segments in a completely different time and place, barely interacting with any of the characters as he hosts some sort of under-explained live video podcast centered around illegal street-racing which only five people watch (none of whom are the police. Which is odd, because this is exactly the sort of free up-to-the-second internet-based evidence service that they could use in this film).

Elsewhere, Imogen Poots initially arrives as a smart, sassy car-expert, subverting our heroes expectations by not being a giggling ditzy blonde, then proceeds to spend the rest of the film becoming a giggling ditzy blonde and shrieking in the passenger seat, while Scott Mescudi plays the black-guy who's good at cracking jokes constantly and stealing aircraft. Constantly. By the time you've added that to the main thread about Tobey (Paul) and Dino (Cooper)'s mumbly rivalry, you begin to long for the driving setpieces, if only because they're largely free of dialogue.

The important part (I assume/hope) is that the races look good. The 3D's not too shabby, either. The screening I attended had ghosting all over the shop, but the depth was there when it mattered (oh, plus that bit where the homeless-guy nearly gets killed by Tobey's car, and his shopping-trolley full of stuff comes flying at the camera. The only pedestrian in the entire film, almost vapourised, but it's okay for everyone to laugh about because he's just a homeless guy, whereas 'Little Pete' is a tragedy because he was driving an illegal 300mph car without a seatbelt on. You stay classy, Gatins.)

If you're watching Need For Speed because you like cars, you're going to be a little disappointed. If you're watching it because you like action-thrillers, you're going to be quite disappointed. If you're watching because you're the four guys two rows behind me, who whooped and hollered every time a car flipped over, then you'll be in your element. Then again, they found the EE promo before the film quite hilarious, too.

Is the trailer representative of the film?
It is, sadly.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
Not nearly enough.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
Crucially, NO.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
If you're going to see it, it may as well be big and loud in the cinema, I'll give it that.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
A bit, yeah.

Will I watch it again?
Not likely.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
There isn't.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
Aaron Paul. What's he for, exactly?

*1 With the exception of the one point where I swear we see The Yellow Car™ taken out of the final race, only to see it briefly in an aerial shot 30 seconds later. I'm pretty certain that happens, but let's be honest: I'm not going to watch it again to confirm.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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