HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Need For Speed
HTS Overall Score:88
Va va vroooom! With the amount of video game and comic book movies hitting home theaters, it was only a matter of time before someone thought that we’d had enough horror or action video game titles and made one out of the INSANELY popular “Need for Speed” franchise. With over the top stunts, fast cars, cop chases, more fast cars, cute girls, more fast cars, and enough fuel capacity to shock a tanker trunk, Disney has decided to do just that. I love movies about cars; The “Fast and the Furious” series is one of my favorite series of the genre, and I was stoked to hear about “Need for Speed” getting its own adaptation. However, with its theatrical bomb in the theaters, I had some strong trepidation over the quality of the movie. Checking it out on home video, I can say that some of those fears were justified and others were a bit over stated. The film is absolutely ludicrous, but only in that way that a video game could be. Characters are paper thin, and really only serve as a vehicle to get from one race scene to the next, but the good in this equation is that we get a LOT of racing, and with some gorgeous Euro cars as well as good old fashioned American muscle cars.
Our tissue paper plot starts out with a set of heroes. Tobey Mashall (Aaron Paul) is a small town mechanic, but moonlights as an amateur race car driver on the sly. While he may be a bit of a blue collar boy, he comes from a family of racers and is said to be the best one of the family, just a little untested. Owning his family business has taken a toll on his resources and business is no longer booming, and with foreclosure on the horizon, he takes his only chance at survival: restoring a Shelby GT Mustang to peak condition. The only catch is that it’s for his old high school rival, Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper). His prize? A quarter of the $2.7 million sale price of the vehicle once sold. Doing a phenomenal job, Tobey and his crew of 14 year old (at least they all look like babies to me) turn that car into a work of art and end of selling it to a millionaire and his conveniently young and gorgeous sales assistant Julia (Imogen Poots). The problem is that in the process, Tobey insulted Dino and once again the two are at each other’s throats. The punishment is that the two race it out with Dino’s extremely rare and street illegal Euro sports cars. Against his better judgment, Tobey lets his best friend Pete race with them only to have Pete die in a flaming car crash, courtesy of Dino’s reckless driving. Dino is rich and connected, so he gets off the hook while Tobey goes to jail for two years.
Come 2 years later, Tobey is back and ready for revenge, but unlike most men, he’s going to exact his revenge on the track. Every few years, there is a famed illegal street race called the De Leon, a race that’s shrouded in secrecy and run by a mysterious wealthy benefactor, only known as “Monarch” (Michael Keaton). Only the elite are allowed in and it’s a winner take all type of match. Dino is a shoe in and has won in the past, but now Tobey is bound and determined to win a spot in the tournament. He knows the GENERAL location of the race but he needs an in, so he sweet talks Julia into allowing him to drive the Shelby GT in the race and the two set out on a nationwide sprint to get the race on time. Now while he’s racing against time, he’s also using this time to act as a live demo. Racing across country he’s got the cops on his tail and Dino has put a bounty on his head, so all eyes are on him and his silver Shelby GT, including Monarch's. A few stunts and cop chases, later Tobey is in like Flynn and off to the most important race of his life.
“Need for Speed” is naturally going to be compared to the more famous “Fast and Furious” series, but deviates wildly, especially since the latter series has been given seven films to mature and is much less a racing series anymore, and more of a heist series with cars. “Need for Speed” is light, fluffy, and a bit of a mixed bag. The first act is a bit bogged down with some superfluous back story and just drags on for a bit too long. The only redeeming factor of that act being the race scene between Dino, Pete, and Tobey which really sets the plot for the rest of the movie. Well, that and watching Michael Keaton just chew on the scenery with incredible gusto (I mean, I was sitting there with a big grin on my face watching him just munching away in a style that only Peter Stormaire has replicated). Once we get to the second act and Tobey is on the path to the De Leon does the film really kick into high gear. The plot is wafer thin and the characters as cookie cutter as they come. Tobey, Pete, Julia and the rest could have largely been replaced with any decent looking actor and nobody would have known the difference. The only standout performances are by the much more mature actors in the form of Michael Keaton and Dominic Cooper, but I digress. The real focus of the movie is the cars and they have those in spades, from American muscle cars, classic Shelby Gt’s, and a plethora of those famed Euro sports cars such as McClarens, Lambos, etc. More than enough eye candy for those whose cologne is that of fuel.
I have a love/hate relationship with this movie. In one sense, I hate the paper thin characters, as not one of them really stands out. That and the ludicrous stunts and leaps of logic in the actual plot. In one scene, the Shelby literally JUMPS several lanes of traffic, 15 feet in the air and somehow land without ANY body or structural damage whatsoever, and in the next scene we have their buddy Benny (Scott Mescudi) bailing them out of situations with a Cesna, a news helicopter AND an Army copter. The leaps in logic on how these were even remotely acquired is mind boggling. On the other hand , the film is littered with those same ludicrous events. In a video game series, the stunts ARE ridiculous and while they are mind boggling, they are stupidly fun at the same time. Tobey can race from one end of the country to another without a single cop catching him (and yes there are a lot of cop chases, what would “Need for Speed” be without a dozen cop cars trailing behind) and racing with the best of the best along an open highway. It’s nonsense, but it’s just plain fun nonsense for gearheads everywhere.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=23561[/img]“Need For Speed” sparkles in just about every way imaginable with its impeccable 2.39:1 AVC encode. The movie was shot on a varying amount of digital cameras and looks about as shiny and crystal clear from beginning to end, as one could expect from a wholly digital presentation. The colors are amazing and varied, switching from a foggy San Francisco to the bright greens and forests of the Mendocino county area of Northern California. Colors grading and skin tones are spot on and natural, giving rise to some spectacular detail. You can see every hair and bit of stubble on Aaron Paul’s rock star scraggly face, and even the individual fibers on the mechanics uniform he wears at the beginning of the film. The cars themselves look like they’re going to leap out of the screen right into your lap, as the photorealism is deliciously superb. Even in the foggy shadows of San Francisco, the black levels never miss a beat and the shadow detail is never lacking. Deep and inky there is simply no fault that I could find with the transfer, and given a BD-50 with not a WHOLE lot of extras gives the encode plenty of breathing room to stretch its visual legs.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=23569[/img]To match the video encode, Disney gives us a powerful and bombastic 7.1 DTS-HD MA track. I’ve always loved Disney’s attention to auditory details in their day and date releases, and the proof is in the pudding here, as this pudding is some tasty tasty stuff. From the moment Tobey starts up his car in the opening race, you know you’re in for a treat. The LFE ripples with enormous bass lines and the entire soundstage starts vibrating and pulsing with raw energy. Surrounds are utilized to their max potential and combined with stellar fronts give the track an AMAZING sense of immersion. I was giddy with joy over the track from the moment I started to the minute the credits rolled. I even had to ask my wife to make sure the China in the cabinets were ok because EVERYTHING in the house was vibrating uncontrollably. The 7.1 tracks can be a bit tricky, but when done right they sound amazing, as is the case here. Bravo, Disney, bravo.
• Capturing Speed: Making An Authentic Car Movie
• Ties That Bind
• The Circus Is In Town
• Audio Commentary
• Monarch & Maverick Outtakes
• Deleted Scenes
• The Sound of Need For Speed
“Need For Speed” isn’t a film that you’re going to pick apart for accuracy, great acting or something to show the grandparents. It’s primarily a vehicle (pun intended) to give you gorgeous cars, even MORE gorgeous cars, and lots and lots of racing from the cops. Fans of the game will be pleased with this fun little romp that takes the ludicrous nature of the video games and translates that same ludicrousness onto film form. With stellar video and audio, this is something that is going to be used as a demo disc on all fronts for a very long time. Definitely recommended for those who like things that go “vroom”.
Starring: Dominic Cooper, Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots
Directed by: Scott Waugh
Written by: George Gatins
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 7.1, English: DD 2.0, French, Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Blu-ray Release Date: August 5th, 2014
Buy Need For Speed Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Race Fans Watch
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