Mania Review: Need for Speed -

Mania Review

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Starring: Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots, Dominic Cooper, Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez and Michael Keaton
  • Written by: George Gatins
  • Directed by: Scott Waugh
  • Studio: Dreamworks Pictures
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Run Time: 130 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: Need for Speed

Speedier than it looks.

By Rob Vaux     March 14, 2014

Need for Speed (2014)
© Dreamworks

 I’m kind of shocked at my fellow critics dumping all over Need for Speed, citing its juvenile plot and cardboard characters as major flaws. If that’s what you guys are interested in, the check out The Grand Budapest Hotel in the theater next door. This one ain’t for you. If you seriously wandered into Need for Speed looking for such things – and indeed are prepared to hold it accountable because it didn’t deliver – your expectations need to align a little more with reality.

If you know the video game, you understand that it’s all about driving really fast through colorful locales. In other words, there’s no narrative to adhere to, which means the filmmakers can set up any story they want. Here, they draw back to the exploitation chase movies of the 1970s: films like Vanishing Point and Dirty Marry, Crazy Larry, which boasted nothing more than a fast car and a stuntman crazy enough to drive it. For this film, they hang a simple idea about a down-on-his-luck would-be racer (Aaron Paul), imprisoned for a murder he didn’t commit and seeking redemption by driving a high-end Mustang cross country to a highly illegal race along the Pacific Coast. Naturally, he has to break parole to do it, and not only are the cops on his tail, but the evil driver who set him up (Dominic Cooper) has put a bounty on his head.

That’s pretty much all you need to know: impetus, goal and nothing but highway between the one and the other. Director Scott Waugh takes his spiritual predecessors to heart and relies almost entirely on real stuntwork rather than CGI tricks. You can feel the difference in the various white-knuckle set pieces and the solid camerawork that brings them to us. It won’t quite match those earliest films for sheer gutsiness, but it still has its priorities in the right place. The cars are prettier than the girls (and considering that the female lead is Imogen Poots, that’s saying something), and Waugh shoots them with almost fetishistic glee.

 For car hounds and fans of the video game, that should be more than enough, and even casual action fans should find plenty here to keep them satisfied until Captain America arrives in April. Need for Speed even has a secret weapon in Michael Keaton: playing the mysterious organizer of the race and adopting the Cleavon Little role as the eye in the sky watching it all unfold. Keaton has been out of the limelight for far too long, and watching the manic gleam in his eye as he describes Paul’s various travails makes for almost as much fun as the rest of the film.

Granted, the characters and plot are as thin as the critics say, and if 130 minutes of road stunts isn’t your thing, you’re apt to get very bored very quickly. Then there’s the question of appropriating a more genuine form of cinematic iconoclasm that a corporate product like this can justify. The films it emulates came from far outside the mainstream, expressing a serious contempt for the same powers that be that perpetrated this one. Need for Speed is mass-produced product, no different from the game line that spawned it, and its attempts to strike a rebellious pose feel as phony as a three-dollar bill.

But again, you can’t go into this endeavor and say you didn’t expect it. As a video game adaptation, Need for Speed is going to evince a little swagger it doesn’t quite deserve, riding on the coattails of its source material rather than establishing its own credentials. But it certainly understands its purpose in life, and goes about it with the flair and pizazz one expects from a modest bit of entertainment. In fact, all things being equal I’d say it’s one of the best video game adaptations out there: a fairly humble boast that belies the reliable good time behind it.  


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blankczech 3/14/2014 8:36:58 AM

  I don't have much use for Rob Vaux's reviews other than the fact that they tell me a little bit about one of the new movies that has been released in particular week. In order for a movie reviewer to be viable to me there has to be some consistency in their reviews, and Rob's are all over the place. Some week's Rob gets all serious about a movie and picks apart all the elements of the film (for example...the story, plot, theme,directing, acting) and than other times he'll grade a film on a sliding scale admitting that for the most part it stinks...while lauding some elements / devices like the special effects.

I don't know about other Maniacs but I don't need Rob to pander to me. Tell me the truth...if you (Rob) think this movie is stupid / mindless, boring pile of steaming sh*t and will only appeal to people who are into hot cars and a video game...give it a "D" or an "F" not a "B plus" believe me, I'm smart enough to figure out that even though you gave it a "D" I'm going to see anyway it because I like the video game or I'm into fancy cars riding fast through cool locals, but on the other hand, if I'm not into cars or video games and I see a D or F grade which this piece garbage actually deserves...I'll know to avoid the film like the plague. A  B-plus grade implies a good  and or exciting story, or good acting and the review explains that those things are not present in this flick.

violator14 3/14/2014 9:03:20 AM

^  Dam dude, who put anthrax in yo tampax?

blankczech 3/14/2014 9:16:36 AM

 I always thought nerds were steroetypically smarter than the average person (see The Big Bang Theory) so why then on a nerd website do we get ...endless interviews and reviews about...Duh,,,a movie with fast cars and hot chicks...and no mention of a smart psychological thriller like the movie Enemy?

lazarus 3/14/2014 9:27:23 AM

Because people like yuo would still complain about something. Oh and Blank, learn to read. He states in the editorial that the movie is not there to have a great plot, acting or any elements that make it Oscar worthy. THAT IS STATED IN THE BEGINNING. He rated the film under the perception and expection of the context the film is supposed to viewed in. Christ you the type that wants to wonder why someone did not review SPACEBALLS from the aspect of sociological and demographical impact and influences.

While I don't ALWAYS agree with Rob's reviews, in his defense he stated he is grading the movie on the expection of knowing what it was supposed to be. Learn to read and understand context Blank, or maybe that it is too high of an intellectual expection of someone that looks like a retarded Superman.

violator14 3/14/2014 9:41:34 AM


fatpantz 3/14/2014 10:30:37 AM

And in other news, local internet nerd's bloody killing spree has finally come to an end.  While no one quite knows what caused this rampage, authorities have stated that he used his last moments of life to give us a final insight into his reasons by whispering the word "Lazarus".  What does this all mean???  More at 11.

ElBaz13 3/14/2014 10:58:02 AM

I wish I could put a picture of Picard facepalm here.

walldigital 3/14/2014 12:39:17 PM

 Amen blankczech.   That is all.

ElBaz13 3/14/2014 1:11:02 PM

 " I always thought nerds were steroetypically smarter than the average person (see The Big Bang Theory) so why then on a nerd website do we get ...endless interviews and reviews about...Duh,,,a movie with fast cars and hot chicks...and no mention of a smart psychological thriller like the movie Enemy?"

Maybe it's because this movie is based on a videogame? 

And what is the major demographic of video gamers out there?

geeks and nerds

RobertTrate 3/14/2014 1:27:11 PM

 I've been posting updates on Enemy since the first trailer arrived. 

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