Need for Speed (Rated PG-13, 130 minutes)
Ladies and Gentlemen, this movie is the epitome of a guilty pleasure; I walked into Need for Speed expecting to have the worst time. And yes, this is for all intents and purposes bad, but my extremely low expectations allowed me to ‘turn my brain off’ and enjoy this extremely flawed, but fun ride. The highly convoluted plot involves a street racer, Tobey Marshall, who is framed by his rich archrival, Dino. As he leaves jail, Tobey vows for revenge and races cross-country to defeat Dino in a race worth millions of dollars.
Now, this is a lot to take in because there is way too much happening on screen; for instance, Tobey does not go to jail until a quarter of the way through the movie. Obviously, the film’s biggest problem is its length. For some reason, the director chooses to linger on scenes for way too long; this happens a lot with the comedy, which makes me wonder does the director know how to edit or film humor. Constantly throughout, the first joke is funny and the scene should end there, but instead, the scene loiters around for an extra thirty seconds: with bad ad-libbing.
But, if edited and directed by a competent person, Need for Speed would have been a ninety-minute movie. The director Scott Waugh, who competently shot action in Act of Valor, is ‘all over the place’ in this movie; sometimes the racing could be downright gorgeous, while other times, the shaky cam and editing make this an unwatchable mess. Again, the lack of proper editing and directing results in an overlong mixed bag, which results in the film wasting too much time in certain areas. For instance, it takes way too long to get to the final race, which is only the last twenty minutes; the limited time and predictability make the race ‘sort of’ anti-climactic. However, every one knew the ending; so at the least, I saw this to be entertained by the racing and I moderately was.
Now the problems with Need for Speed does not stop there; the dialogue is so cringe-worthy that it will either leave the audience laughing or looking away in pain. And the blame for this does not solely fall on the writer; yes the script is bad but the bad directing led to some of the worst line deliveries. The perfect example of this collaboration between bad writing and bad directing is ‘the blue eyes’ scene: where the leads debate who has better blue eyes. Now the leads, Aaron Paul and Imogen Poots, are not that bad in the film; however, majority of the cast is truly terrible. Some seem like they are taking the material way too serious, while the others are goofy caricatures. Dominic Cooper, who is usually an awesome villain, is incredibly stiff and dull as the movie’s antagonist. And Tobey’s best friends range from averagely funny (Kid Cudi’s Benny) to downright awful (Harrison Gilbertson’s Pete). Cringe-worthy dialogue is bad enough, but it is nearly infuriating to have bad acting and terrible line delivery too.
But even with all the negatives, Need for Speed won me over with its charm and constant pace. Even though, it needs to be trimmed in certain areas, I was never completely bored. Perhaps it was my low expectations that allowed me to ‘buy into’ the mindless kinetic energy. In the end, this is a movie about cars going fast and crashing; and the last time I checked, The Fast and the Furious series was not Shakespeare. The predictability, bad acting, and plot holes can be ignored if the audience has a good time. And I am a little ashamed to say that I had a good time. But the sole reason why this is a guilty pleasure are the two leads and an enjoyable supporting character.
Imogen Poots and Aaron Paul really give their all, even though, the script is nowhere near the quality of the leads. Imogen Poots has always had the charm to be a leading lady, however, she has not been given many opportunities. On the other hand, Aaron Paul, who is fresh off of Breaking Bad, delivers a performance that makes me wonder what can he do with better material? He somehow manages to be charming, while spewing awful dialogue. But perhaps, my love for these two makes me too positive about their performances; but in my opinion, Need for Speed shows that both Paul and Poots can carry a movie, even a bad one.
But they do not give the best performance: Michael Keaton looks like he has a blast from beginning to end. I have not seen Keaton this lively since Beetlejuice; he is wildly out of control as the Internet show host who sponsors the famous final race. Every time he is on screen he livens very dull scenes, especially scenes where the improper shot structure results in it being extremely monotonous. He adds to the kinetic energy of the movie and his commentary makes the anti-climactic final race exciting. And on a final note, just because the final race is anti-climactic does not mean it is completely lackluster; for instance, some of the crash scenes are jaw-dropping, but again, it could have been better if shot properly.
Now, I cannot truly recommend this film because this is the definition of a guilty pleasure. It has all elements of a bad movie, but again, my low expectations mixed with the kinetic charm resulted in an enjoyable movie experience. Yes, it is easy to count the many plot holes (and there are many) or the overall problems, but if you truly ‘shut your brain off,” then you might have a good time. Or you might still despise it. Either way, I had a good time with this forgettable action movie.