Cocktails and Movies Review: Need for Speed – A Damn Fun Time

_1387490762by Mike Reyes

If you love the Fast And Furious franchise, then you’ve just found yourself a new favorite movie

When The Fast and The Furious burst onto screens in 2001, it reinvigorated the car culture of American youth. Not since the days of the Muscle Car had you seen the culture of hot rides and hotter women really reflected in the pop culture landscape of Cinema. Rob Cohen’s flawed yet famous initial entry spawned six more entries, each more crazy and connected than the last. If there was any sort of criticism to be had (past the dismal quality of 2 Fast 2 Furious), it is that the franchise found its heart a little too late. By time Fast Five rolled around, we finally had a central cast of the series all stars, and somewhat of a strong emotional core. Dom, Brian, and the entire crew finally became “a family,” and the rest was history. Well, if you like (or dare I say love) The Fast and Furious franchise, then prepare to be blown away by its superior antithesis… Need For Speed.

Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) and Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) are two kids out of Mount Kisco, New York. Two of the best racers in their local underground circuit, these guys don’t really like each other, on the count of a massive case of the haves (Dino’s loaded) versus the have nots (Tobey’s about to lose his late father’s shop). Their feud is only going to grow after a careless accident and an act of cowardice wrongly land Tobey behind bars. After serving his time, Tobey’s got only two things on his mind: gaining entry into race of all races, run by the elusive but always colorful commentator The Monarch (Michael Keaton); and making sure that Dino pays for violating one of the biggest rules of the road when it comes to racing. That rule? When a racer is down, you always go back.

NEED FOR SPEED

I went into this movie thinking it could be decent. After all, the trailers never really gave me more than a feeling of “this could work.” When the lights came up, I was a changed man. Need For Speed not only convinced me that Stunt coordinator turned director Scott Waugh was given the keys to this bad boy for a reason, but it further solidified the popular opinion that Aaron Paul kicks all sorts of acting ass. Paul carries this movie as if it were a mere feather in his palm, as he doesn’t sink too deeply into brooding that he can’t kid around with his co-stars. In fact, the whole ensemble cast in this film has pretty much written their ticket for success, as Scott Mescudi (aka Kid Cudi), Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez , and Imogen Poots all manage to work like the stereotypical well oiled machine.

On the more established side of the coin, we see Dominic Cooper play a villain that isn’t so much over the top as he is a spoiled brat with some misgivings. He never has to say a word about his regret for what went down, as he sticks to playing it facially. But at the same time, he realizes that it’s either going to be him or Tobey at the finish line, and he’s damned sure it’s not going to be him. His menace doesn’t chew scenery, so much as it eats what it needs to keep going in an effective manner. Also, Michael Keaton almost steals the movie AGAIN! His slimey CEO in Robocop (2014) was a delight to behold, but as The Monarch he really lets his inner Beetlejuice show again. For a role that could have easily been an exposition dump with minimal effort, he brings his scenes to such colorful life that you want him to stick around.

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Then there’s the movie on a whole. Mr. Waugh grew up with a passion for car movies like Bullitt and Smokey and The Bandit, and he loves practical effects like Michael Bay loves explosions and CGI. This movie is a fast paced thrill ride that manages to take a minimal plot and pad it out effectively with good characters and beautiful action. If you’re not laughing at the exploits on the screen, your jaw is going to be dropped by some of the stuff they pull off with pretty much no CGI. By the way, saying the plot is “minimal” is not an insult. The movie throws some nice curves, and doesn’t take the easy way out of the situations it creates for itself. It also has a lot of heart to it, which is something that, again, the competition found just a little too late. You’re not going to see too many girls in short skirts dancing around the latest model cars here, but you will find characters to rally around and root for to the finish.

The moviegoing public has an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a franchise that should surely give The Fast and The Furious a run for its money, or at the very least carry the torch once it has decided to park it for good. Waugh and his team have a genuine thrill ride on their hands, and they have what’s probably one of the best non-tentpole releases we’ve seen in a while. Since Fast and Furious 7 has been unfortunately delayed, I have to highly recommend this movie as a fitting substitute. It’s sad that Paul Walker is no longer with us, because if he were, I think he would have loved the good natured competition he and Aaron Paul could have had. If you love a good time, or if you love car movies in general, you’d be a fool to pass this one up. If anything, it has some of the best event film writing I’ve seen in a long while, and this is nothing if not a full blown event film.

My Rating: 5/5