Tobey Marshall (Jesse “Bitch” Pinkman) owns a car garage passed down from his dead father, which is really convenient because since they have the same name they were able to keep the garage name Marshall Motors. Obviously this movie takes place before Twitter was invented or Tobey just plain sucks at marketing, because the garage is going under and one time sucking dick for money was enough for Tobey. Luckily, he’s a super good driver and he uses those mad skillz to earn more paper but it’s still not enough because we’re only about 10 minutes into the movie. As luck would have it, Tobey can add “building a sweet, nasty ride” to his resume, because local dickbag Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), which is more or less the best name ever for a local dickbag villain that races cars in a movie based on a video game, approaches him to finish construction on a modified Mustang GT Special Buttcheek Spreading Edition (or something along those lines) in exchange for some profits.
After that I took a bathroom break because there’s no way in hell I was going to leave to take a piss during the car action.
When I got back, Dino was mad that Tobey had driven the Mustang to show off for Julia (Imogen Poots), and challenges him and rookie Little Pete (which is literally his name) to a race with some awesome-looking Konigsegg cars. Dino rams Little Pete, who dies in a fiery slow-motion crash. The crash is almost as bad as seeing Aaron Paul fall to his knees and scream “NOOOOOOOOO!” Then Tobey gets put in prison for two years because Dino nopes out of there and Tobey is blamed for the death. When he gets out, he only wants one thing: some o’ dat sweet, sweet pussy revenge. So he goes on a cross-country trip with Julia in that Mustang to get a place in a super secret but totally famous (?) race hosted by none other than Michael Keaton. When was the last time you were in a race hosted by Batman? That’s what I thought. Sit down, sir. In that race, he’ll show Dino who’s boss, because racers have honor and kids might be seeing this movie.
Two words: Practical effects. Director Scott Waugh uses his experience as a stunt coordinator to keep the chases and crashes almost 100% CGI-free. There are parts where there was probably CGI (like a car on fire, because generally speaking a car on fire would also set the person inside the car on fire), but for the most part the actors themselves were literally racing and crashing these cars. And it looks fucking awesome. There are some seriously sphincter-clenching moments here, and they’re shown in all of their glory with no shaky-cam and plenty of POV. It all looks fantastic; seriously, now I’m spoiled.
Also of note are some nice (some obvious, some not so much) references to classic car chase movies. Sure, pretty much all of those movies are better than this one, but if you honestly thought this was going to be better than Bullitt I want some of whatever you’re smoking.
The script is about what you would expect from a movie based on a video game series that never gets more complicated than “Race cars.” There are lines like “Let’s settle this behind the wheel” and “It looks like a scene from Speed down there,” and nearly all of them are awful. Are these actually meant to be witty or did one of the writers just have to put down his dog and didn’t give a shit?
Keaton’s DJ Monarch is a fucking cliché machine. Insert a quarter into his buttcrack and he’ll say something canned and ready to ship out to lyrically-inept orphans. He does everything from discussing the size of someone’s balls, to doing rhyme, and just about every other cliche commentary on the face of the earth. He is, at least, a step above John Madden in that he doesn’t just describe the fact that there are people and they are driving.
After about an hour into the movie, it’s actually difficult to tell whether Tobey was sent to prison for involuntary manslaughter, or for being such a fucking boring character. Actually, he’s not too bad; Aaron Paul has enough charisma to make the character pretty interesting and he acts well. Of course, this might just be the lifetime of goodwill Paul has stockpiled in the wake of Breaking Bad’s success.
It’s everyone else that is so difficult to watch. You can almost see the dotted lines used to cut the characters out of their molds in the Stock Characters Vol. III: Car Movies (Suitable for Ages 8 and Up) book that I just made up. But still, you have the brooding protagonist, the cool and evil bad guy, the rookie that everyone treats like a little brother, the hot girl, the tech whiz, the gearheads, the comic relief—they’re all here. And they’re all mostly really annoying.
That said, I do have to give props to Dominic Cooper, who is smug to the point of absurdity. He also has all of that rich guy douchiness such as a black leather jacket, Tobey’s ex-girlfriend, and lots of cars. He’s almost kind of hilarious, in that special “PG-13 street racing movie” kind of way.
I spent a good part of the non-action bits of the film trying to think of ways to defend the stupidest parts of this movie, when I decided, you know what? When Oberst brings it up, as we know he will, he’s damn right. This movie is stupid. There are plot holes, the movie breaks its own rules (“In our world you always go back,” says Tobey, shortly before doing exactly not that), and things like how a billionaire would let a parolee drive one of the world’s rarest cars on the offchance that he might win and give him some of the winnings are more or less glossed over.
Granted, searching for any tangible amount of logic in a movie called Need for Speed is about as foolhardy as taking a DeLorean to pick up a girl for a date. Of course, it’s even more foolhardy to even date someone who does not recognize the supreme fucking merit of a DeLorean and what it stands for. But the writers do seem to understand how Google works, and at the very least there is a tad bit of realism to the overall manhunt by the police and Tobey’s 2-year prison sentence for involuntary manslaughter (which, shockingly, is actually about how long you’d be in for).
I really wanted to love Need for Speed. It’s certainly earnest and wants you to have fun watching it, much like probably-horrible-joke-I-was-about-to-make-about-a-disabled-stripper. But like that aforementioned stripper joke, which will remain untold, the movie is not quite as amazing as it would like you to think it is, despite having some awesome crashes. But at the very least, it’s good enough for two hours of decent entertainment.
She has one leg.
Take a Drink: every time Keaton says something corny.
And Do a Shot: every time Keaton says “Dino Dino Bambino”
Start Chugging, and Don’t Stop until it Ends: for the scene in which Finn strips naked and walks out of his office job.
Take a Drink: for each car destroyed in the film.
Do a Shot: every time you spot a reference to a classic car chase movie.