There's a moment near the end of Need for Speed when street-racing kingpin Monarch says, "This isn't just about racing." But just like in the video game series with which Need for Speed shares its name, it really is.
This isn't the type of movie you watch to see character depth, thoughtful narrative, and social commentary. This is the type of movie you watch to see fast cars, explosions, and non-stop automotive chaos. And on that front, it delivers. Watching Need for Speed is an undeniably exciting experience thanks to the suspenseful action scenes that dominate the movie’s long 130-minute running time.
You may be wondering how the writers of Need for Speed came up with a feature-length film plot from a video game franchise, but it’s more simple than you’d think. In fact, the basic story of Need for Speed sounds a lot like the premise for a racing video game: hotshoe Tobey Marshall, played by Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, must drive across the country in less than two days to make it to California in time for a high-profile street race on mountain roads along the Pacific coastline.
Sure, there are other plot points involving revenge, romance, and deception, but none is convincing or significant enough to compete with scene after scene of narrow escapes, daring stunts, and general automotive mayhem. Most of this mayhem involves the movie’s hero car, a modified Ford Mustang that’s portrayed as one of Carroll Shelby’s unfinished creations. There’s plenty of other hot metal to be found here, too, including supercars like the Koenigsegg Agara R, the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, the McLaren P1, the Lamborghini Sesto Elemento, and even a brief appearance by the 2015 Ford Mustang. Sadly, most of the exotics meet various unpleasant deaths, hence the sometimes obvious use of kit cars in place of these million-dollar-plus, extremely rare supercars.
Although the movie bills itself as a credible gearhead flick, I gave up on analyzing Need for Speed’s legitimacy when the Mustang hit 234 mph on a tight, twisting racetrack. But that doesn’t mean the movie isn’t fun to watch. The acting is stiff and the dialogue is rigid, but who cares about that when you can see a Mustang suspended from a helicopter hurtling through the air over the Grand Canyon? (Yes, this actually happens.)
So don’t go see Need for Speed expecting Oscar-worthy performances and depth of meaning. For those of us who can’t help but get excited by exploding supercars, though, this blockbuster is just entertaining enough to be worth the price of admission.
Need for Speed opens in theaters nationwide March 14.