Movie Review: 'Need For Speed'

Mar 22, 2014, 07:10 IST | Mihir Fadnavis

There is a fundamental flaw in movies that are based on video games. It’s that most video games, if not all of them, take inspiration from movies.

Need For Speed
U/A: Action
Dir: Scott Waugh
Cast: Aaron Paul

There is a fundamental flaw in movies that are based on video games. It’s that most video games, if not all of them, take inspiration from movies.

'Need For Speed'
'Need For Speed' takes itself way too seriously

So when you make such a movie, you’re making a film based on a game that, in turn, is based on a movie. There is no room for ingenuity left, which is why most video game adaptations are terrible. The latest one to fall into this trap is Need For Speed (NFS).

I grew up playing NFS and even now, I sometimes pop in a copy of Most Wanted on my PS3. But despite being such a big fan of the game, I had no anticipation for the NFS movie, for the simple reason that I knew it would suck. It’s a curse and the track record consists of recent duds like Doom, Max Payne, and Prince of Persia. Hitman was probably the only recent memorable game-based movie because it got a few things right.

On that front Need For Speed achieves its goal — it looks and feels very much like an NFS movie, right down to the racing tracks. It’s everything else that it messes up — the characters, the story (or lack thereof), the boring protagonist, the generic blonde love interest, the stock villain. And when you have Aaron Paul as your hero and you still manage to make him tedious, you have a serious problem at hand. I’ll refrain from making any NFS based puns but this movie just doesn’t have the nitrous boost that it needed to be exciting.

Right from the opening scene, Need For Speed takes itself too seriously. Director Scott Waugh earlier made Act of Valor, which was cool for its focus on realism, but awful because it had real marines and not actors trying to act.

So to remedy that Waugh cast a bunch of extremely charismatic and good looking actors like Paul, Dominic Cooper and Imogen Poots but gave them some seriously horrible lines to deliver, all in a plot that is actually more clichéd and flimsy than NFS Undercover. Moreover, he superimposes the super-serious tone of the film with awfully cheesy lines like this: “You know any females? Like pretty ones?” “Your mom (followed by raucous laughter).”

And then we have Michael Keaton in a five-minute role mouthing lines like, “Racing is art. Racing for passion — that’s high art.” With this cameo and his role in Robocop, Keaton is clearly standing with a bowl full of currency.

To its credit Need For Speed does differentiate itself pretty well from the Fast and Furious movies. The latter actually borrowed heavily from NFS Underground, but this movie uses real cars, even in the crashes, and big stunts to look more visceral and real.

There are a couple of saucy action scenes, and the final race is quite a lot of fun. If only the film were a bit self-aware, or at least humorous to keep itself entertaining.
The guys who made The Lego Movie could have made a great NFS movie — hopefully they’ll get to direct a video game adaptation someday.

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