Review: 'Need for Speed' not a mere 'Fast and Furious' clone

Posted at 03/16/14 11:46 AM

The story of "Need for Speed" begins in the small town of Mt. Kisco in New York state. Tobey Marshall runs a car detailing joint he inherited from his dad. An old rival, Dino Brewster, frames Tobey for causing a deadly car accident. After serving his jail sentence, Tobey seeks revenge and vindication via one big final race where the two main characters meet to settle their differences.

I am have not seen any episode of the acclaimed TV series "Breaking Bad" so I was not familiar who lead actor Aaron Paul was. As Tobey, Paul was able to convince us of his driving prowess, as well as effectively convey the deep emotional motivations.

I had only known of the quirky Imogen Poots earlier this year in "That Awkward Moment." She is in a much bigger role here as sassy Julia, the British car broker who gets to be Toby's cross-country driving partner. She is delightful, funny and awkward in a cute way.

As the bad guy Dino, Dominic Cooper has matured since we first saw him as the groom-to-be in "Mamma Mia." Playing Tobey's crew are more up and coming young actors: Scott Mescudi (a.k.a. Kid Cudi the rapper) as Benny the wacky pilot; Rami Malek as Finn (his random naked comic sequence is still a head-scratcher), and Harrison Gilbertson as Little Pete (the emotional core of the film).

The one senior star in the cast is Michael Keaton who played Monarch, the online-based organizer of illegal drag races. His animated play-by-play annotation of the racing adds to the excitement and drama.

Of course, the main stars are actually the amazing cars. Tobey drove from New York to California in a Custom 2014 Ford Mustang GT500. In the start of the film we witness a drag race with classic cars like the 1969 Ford Torino GT, 1967 Pontiac GTO, among others. In the climactic big race, we see intense super-cars with speeds over 200 kph like the beautiful Koenigsegg Agera R, Lamborghini Sesto Elemento, GTA Spano, McLaren P1, Bugatti Veyron Super Sport and others. At the very end of the film, we even get to see a preview of a 2015 Ford Mustang.

The live (not CG) car racing and chase scenes were very excitingly edited together -- a true adrenaline rush. There was one particular car stunt scene called the "Grasshopper" in a Detroit highway that was outstandingly exhilarating. We were treated to various scenic American landscapes along the way as they drive cross-country. The Grand Canyon scenes were particularly spectacular.

At first I did not plan to watch "Need for Speed" because the trailer made it look like an exact clone of "The Fast and the Furious" films. After I watched it, I realize that it is not. This is an excellent car movie in its own right! 8/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."