Need For Speed 2014

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The death of Fast and Furious star Paul Walker casts an eerie light over Dreamworks racing movie Need for Speed: early on, when one of his friends is burned to death in a high-powered sports car, high-flying street-racer Tobey (Aaron Paul) is brought back down to earth, but only for a few moments. In Need For Speed, road traffic fatalities are just plot-points, quickly glossed over before the next set of brightly colored obstacles come into view. It’s a formula that worked well in the Fast and Furious films, but after the genuine shock of Walker’s tragic death in a car accident, such jollity in the face of death may sit uneasily with the public.

Now that the Fast and Furious films have shifted gears from street racing to international heists, there’s clearly a gap left in the market for a street racing film: Need for Speed attempts to have it both ways by having Tobey get out of jail and leave the police far behind as he takes part in an illegal cross-country race to get to an illegal cross-country race. ‘A race before the race, I love it,’ exclaims organizer Monarch (Michael Keaton), but audiences may feel differently; the stakes for each race are just the same, and the action is so similar that one race blends into another.

Scott Waugh’s film borrows the high-seriousness and epic tone on the Fast and Furious films as Tobey and his posh girlfriend Julia attempt to get to Monarch’s race. Tobey knows that Dino (Dominic Cooper) was responsible for his friend’s death through dangerous driving, and has charged himself to teach Dino a lesson by driving even more dangerously. This numbskull quest is devoid of any real point: finger-pointing Tobey accuses Dino of being irresponsible, but no-one in the film ever questions whether taking part in illegal street-racing such is a good idea in the first place.

It’s just one of a series of idiocies, not the deftly enjoyable ones featured in the Fast and Furious ones, but ones that leave you wondering what’s going on. If Tobey’s car is twice as fast as the police, why can’t he outrun them easily ? If he’s such a good driver, why does he need rescued by helicopter? Why does Tobey plan to refuel his car from an airborne pump, but need Julia to climb outside the car to plug the nozzle in? And if he’s in such a rush that he simply cannot stop, why does the next scene see him pulling into a gas station?

The laws of physics have also taken a battering in the Fast and Furious Films, but Need for Speed doesn’t have the same testosterone charm: when a sports car drives directly at a humvee and the humvee swerves to avoid the crash, then any credibility has gone out the window. Like Keaton’s obnoxious commentator, Need For Speed is far too full of itself: aside from a few well-staged crashes, the weak plotting and cliched characters mean that there’s nothing much to see here. Grand Theft Zero.

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