‘Need for Speed’ Review

Published 1 year ago by , Updated October 17th, 2014 at 9:04 pm,

Need for Speed Movie Aaron Paul Need for Speed Review

Car lovers and films fans that are willing to switch off their brains should find Need for Speed offers (at the very least) an amusing ride.

In Need for Speed, local grease monkey and street racer, Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul), is struggling to keep his auto shop business open (and his team of mechanic friends employed). With creditors knocking at his garage door, Tobey agrees to a temporary partnership with longtime opponent, professional racer Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), in order to complete, and then sell, a modified Ford GT500 that once belonged to renowned car designer Carroll Shelby.

After finishing the project, the brash (and insecure) Dino challenges Tobey to an impromptu race – in the hopes of humiliating his rival and making off with a bigger chunk of their sales commission. However, when the not-so-friendly race results in tragic consequence, Dino speeds away – leaving Tobey to endure a two year prison term (for a crime that he did not commit). Upon his release, Tobey vows to prove his innocence through the only means available to him – journeying across the country to compete in the mother of all illegal street races.

Need for Speed Movie Aaron Paul Dominic Cooper Need for Speed Review

Aaron Paul and Dominic Cooper in ‘Need for Speed’

Moviegoers have been skeptical about Need for Speed ever since it was first announced – and for good reasons: it’s a video game adaptation, with a relatively thin premise, that (no doubt) attempts to capitalize on continued interest in the mega-successful Fast and Furious franchise. Based on those details alone, it would be easy to dismiss Need for Speed as a shallow cash grab; however, the final film, from Act of Valor director Scott Waugh, differentiates itself enough to be a worthwhile watch. The story may be flimsy and a few over-the-top moments will have viewers rolling their eyes, but a solid mix of amusing personalities paired with eye-popping practical (not CGI) racing sequences should engage both car enthusiasts and casual moviegoers – assuming they’re open to a fun, albeit brainless, high speed adventure.

The Need for Speed storyline borrows elements from the video game franchise (including law enforcement crackdown) - but is not an outright adaptation of any one installment. Instead, the script, written and developed by George and John Gatins, is a very basic tale of injustice and retribution – set in a world where heroes can solve their legal troubles by racing cars through crowded city streets (often at the expense of/damage to innocent bystanders). It’s a goofy setup, one that significantly limits what the film can explore in its two hour runtime, but the Gatins make up for any shortcomings in the core narrative by padding the film with fun set pieces and an enjoyable cast of quirky side characters.

Need for Speed Movie Ford Shelby GT500 Need for Speed Review

The Shelby GT500 in ‘Need for Speed’

Aaron Paul (known best for his portrayal of Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad) isn’t given much to work with outside his standard repertoire but, at the same time, he elevates what could have been a one-note role. In spite of thin scripting, Paul actually fleshes Tobey out with gravity and charm – ensuring that even the most heavy-handed character beats supply emotional impact. Yet, Tobey can also take (or give) a joke and Paul has no trouble playing-off the rest of Need for Speed‘s ensemble for cathartic laughs.

As indicated, the supporting cast is surprisingly rich – especially in the case of Tobey’s co-pilot, Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots). Certain aspects of Julia try too hard to differentiate the character from damsel in distress tropes but, overall, her spirited personality is a fun juxtaposition (especially against Paul’s more solemn disposition). Team Tobey members Finn (Rami Malek) and Joe Peck (Ramon Rodriguez) help fuel the storyline and offer tongue-in-cheek gags but Scott Mescudi (also known as rapper Kid Cudi) steals the comedy relief spotlight in nearly every one of his scenes – as pilot/navigator/watch dog Benny. Select Benny moments challenge disbelief but the character is essential in keeping the dynamic between Tobey and his team light-hearted – irrespective of dark turns.

Imogen Poots Need for Speed Julia Need for Speed Review

Imogen Poots as Julia in ‘Need for Speed’

Unfortunately, while Dominic Cooper gives a serviceable performance as Dino, the character is underdeveloped. Waugh attempts to flesh Dino out with conflicted emotions and financial pressures of his own, but regardless of the filmmaker’s intent, the script prevents Dino from becoming anything more than a stock cartoon villain. Similarly, Michael Keaton makes a brief appearance as race organizer Monarch and while his contribution is fun to watch, Keaton’s overblown portrayal is often excessive instead of intriguing.

Of course the true stars of Need for Speed will be the cars – along with Waugh’s heart-pounding race sequences. Car enthusiasts will have plenty of rubber and metal to feast their eyes on, with appearances from the 2015 Ford Mustang GT, Saleen S7, as well as Lamborghini Sesto Elemento, among others, and the filmmaker captures the raw power of the machines with in your-face visuals and sound design. Need for Speed is a loud and frantic film but, in spite of all the high speed flash, Waugh succeeds at keeping the cinematography (mostly) grounded. The choice to shoot the racing sequences using actual cars and stunt drivers, not CGI post-production, sets Need for Speed apart with a convincing realism that is noticeably absent in modern blockbuster vehicle chases.

Need for Speed Movie Shelby GT500 Need for Speed Review

Practical (Not CGI) Racing in ‘Need for Speed’

Moviegoers who now expect fist punching machismo and complicated heist sequences in their car racing movies will likely find Need for Speed to be a cliched and restricting movie experience – one that spends more time following exotic muscle cars around hairpin turns than it does developing main character arcs or surprising viewers with unique twists. However, speeding from one rip-roaring chase to the next is what sets Waugh’s film apart from similar offerings. Even though it’s not a particularly smart or original movie, car lovers and films fans that are willing to switch off their brains should find Need for Speed offers (at the very least) an amusing ride.

If you’re still on the fence about the Need for Speed movie, check out the trailer below:


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Need for Speed runs 130 minutes and is Rated PG-13 for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language. Now playing in 2D and 3D theaters.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below. For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check out our Need for Speed episode of the SR Underground podcast.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

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  1. 21% on Rotten Tomatoes..ouch

    • what do you expect? it’s not supposed to be 12 YAS.

      • And here I was thinking this was the sequel….

        • NeYou never know, if they make a lot of money…

  2. I loved this movie especially Imogen Poots really steals some scenes with her charm. The racing stunts totally impressive and realistic compared to other similar movies genre. Who cares the critics saying as long you’ll get the adrenalin pump up on your chest. Go watch this and not forget Aaron Paul is awesome!

    • Agreed!! I loved the movie. I feel it deserves more credit than what the critics are saying. The characters performed well and the movie definitely had me off the edge of my seat. I could care less about what the critics have to say. I hope they make a sequel and I’m definitely buying this on DVD!

  3. Good review. I definitely want to check it out. I’ll probably wait until later though.

  4. I’m kind of tempted to see it. Practical stunts and effects? That’s a nice change of pace. I was worried about Aaron Paul being “Pinkman-lite” in this role. I hope that’s not the case. While he was perfect in Breaking Bad it’s hard to see him playing anything besides a druggie or a gear-head and now he’s played both of those. It’ll be interesting to see where his career goes from here.

    Kid Cudi? I totally missed that!

  5. Honestly, this guy Aaron Paul looked awful from the trailers. Came outa jail the cleanest person on earth with the most fresh haircut. And the dialog whenever he spoke sounded laughably bad. He just didn’t look like he fit the character at all.

    • Agree !

  6. I loved this movie! I can’t stop saying these quotes. http://www.ranker.com/list/need-for-speed-movie-quotes/movie-and-tv-quotes

  7. I really hope this franchise rival Fast & Furious, it would be a cool movie rivalry to watch for years to come. Aaron Paul is the perfect actor to head this franchise.

  8. This movie just fell flat for me. The action was great but it was just an average movie

    • Yup, Terrible movie. thumbs up for no CGI though

  9. That ain’t a 2015 Mustang GT. It’s a 2013.

    The 2014.5 is the 50th Anniversary and is a full redesign.

  10. I’m sorry, but going to thus film looking for character development or plot twists is the same thing as looking a porn film and expecting the same thing.

  11. This film is like Pacific Rim, except with cars instead of giant robots. Which is to say that it definitely delivers in its promise of lots of great, real-driving footage of very cool cars. But the script and many of the away-from-the-wheel moments are not terribly great.

    I agree that the cast is a nice group of engaging actors, though. Paul mostly just looks serious, but Imogen Poots has an incredibly charm when she’s onscreen. The Kid Cudi stuff is the worst part. Weak jokes, far-fetched scenarios.

    Basically, though, if you’re into car, this film is an enjoyable visceral trip. Otherwise, though, it’s probably safe to take a pass on.

    • *many small grammatical errors litter that paragraph.

  12. Great…

    Another movie for rednecks that think they can drive

  13. Way from what I expected.
    - yes they have garage, but not customizing race cars
    - yes they do racing, but not “way to the top” racings
    - no racing cars (only exotic ones)

    It would much better if the movie just pick one NFS title (like most wanted, carbon, or hot putsuit) and stick to the game’s story…

    Don’t be afraid to escalate the game into the high special effect movies than to start a bad new story.

  14. This was definitely a fun movie. It made me want to drive home fast from the theatre and drift around turns, haha.

    It had lots of things that didn’t make sense, and my buddy and I were making fun of it as we watched, but we both quite enjoyed the ride. You don’t see a movie like this to be stimulated mentally. You watch it for fast driving and cool cars, and that’s what it delivered. It had some good humour also.

  15. This movie had a $ 65 million budget. It’s been a week since its release and already it’s making $63 million.

    This movie is making profit already. So there will be a sequel in the near future. Don’t worry about armchair film critics.
    Btw, I enjoyed it.

    I feel the need….the need for speed.

  16. i guess we just found our Flash…
    that Pete kid, Harrison Gilbertson he’s channeling/flashing out (pun) that Flash vibe (double pun) here.. next stop Justice League, baby!

  17. I felt the Need for Speed.

    Agree with all your comments!!

  18. I feel like 10 years ago, this movie would have starred someone like Jason Statham. Nothing against Aaron Paul, but like the angry barking chihuahua, I find it hard to take him seriously as the hardened, bad ass fresh out of jail on the road to revenge/redemption.