Need for Speed: Action outruns slow plot

Gary Wolcott, atomictown.comMarch 13, 2014 

Need for Speed is more proof that today's filmmakers are totally out of ideas. Not that it matters. Lots of movies are based on video games, and this one is the world's most popular racing game. It has sold 140 million copies, and by the time Need for Speed crosses its personal movie finish line, it will have made that number or more in dollars.

When it comes to video game movies, this one is light years better than most. Or to put all of this a different way, Need for Speed is going to be huge and deservedly so.

Aaron Paul from the hit TV series Breaking Bad makes his movie star debut as Tobey Marshall. He is racing underground's best racer and a rival of NASCAR sensation Dino Brewster, a villain played nicely by Dominic Cooper (Ian Fleming in the TV series Fleming).

Marshall does business with Brewster that ends badly. A dash for all the cash in the deal ends up with Marshall's best buddy dead in a car crash on a bridge. Brewster -- who causes the wreck -- drives off and later refuses to come forward and admit culpability. Marshall gets blamed and imprisoned.

When Marshall gets out of jail, he vows revenge.

Marshall scores a souped-up super car from Julia Maddon -- played nicely by Imogen Poots (That Awkward Moment) -- and they race across country to A) participate in the legendary underground race the De Leon and B) to fall in love. Marshall's reason for wanting to be in the race is because Brewster will be there.

The race is set up by Michael Keaton's Monarch, who broadcast's nonstop patter on a podcast about the two rivals and his race.

The movie's style runs along the lines of the successful The Fast and the Furious series. The racing is the entire reason you'll want to see Need for Speed. You're not going to be that impressed with a plot that is packed with too many oh-come-on-now moments.

Here are a few. Paul's Marshall is traveling cross-country at near supersonic speeds, and his support team in a tow truck are always right there with him. How's that? Police in a number of jurisdictions are giving chase, but Marshall manages to lose them. Really?

And on and on go the head-scratching plot points.

But -- as noted earlier -- the story really isn't the purpose of the movie. Paul and Cooper -- who do much of their own stunt driving -- and Poots and Keaton and their co-stars are good, but the real star is director and former stuntman Scott Waugh (Act of Valor). Need for Speed is all about speed and the well-done dangerous dashes in hot cars and spectacular crashes.

Period.

Here's some irony for you. Need for Speed is anything but fast. Running at 130 minutes, it is 30 minutes too long. That said, see it anyway and do so in 3-D. Need for Speed is as close as any of us are going to get to going 200 mph in a car.

Director: Scott Waugh

Stars: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Michael Keaton

Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars

Rated PG-13 for mature themes, some violence. It's playing at Regal's Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.

-- Is Mr. Movie's position on these movies and others flawed? Let him know at www.tri-cityherald.com/arts/mrmovie.

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