Film: “Need For Speed”; Cast: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Michael Keaton, Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez, Dakota Johnson; Director: Scott Waugh; Rating: ***
If Abba had immortalised “The winner takes it all” in 1980s, then “Need For Speed” reiterates it with “The winner takes it all and the losers have to walk home”.
Powered with supersonic sound, accelerated cars and adolescent indulgence, this revenge tale would appeal to car lovers and speed fanatics who would love to exist in a world without rules.
The film’s plot revolves around Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) a mechanic-cum-ace underground racer who lives in Mt. Kisco, New York. Along with a group of friends, he is struggling to keep his auto shop business afloat.
Circumstances make him agree to a temporary partnership with Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) a long-time opponent who is now a professional racer and car broker. Dino is in possession of the prototype 50th-anniversary Ford Mustang that legendary designer Carroll Shelby was working on at the time of his death in 2012. The car is incomplete and its sale is pending.
So, the deal is that Tobey modifies the Ford Mustang in exchange of 25 percent cut of the sales price, which amounts to a whooping 500,000 dollars.
After out-performing the project, Tobey manages to sell the car to Dino’s British buyer for nearly three million dollars. This infuriates Dino.
Arrogant and insecure Dino challenges Tobey and Pete, one of Tobey’s friends and a race enthusiast, to an impromptu “winner-takes-it-all” road race in three identical, street-illegal Swedish Koenigsegg super cars.
The race leads to a tragic consequence, where Pete is killed. Dino frames Tobey for Pete’s death. Tobey does his time in prison and emerges two years later with revenge on his mind.
In his endeavour, Tobey is assisted by the British buyer’s confidante, Julia (Imogen Poots), who secures for Tobey that same Mustang dream machine he restored. His ex-flame and Pete’s sister Anita Coleman (Dakota Johnson) along with his garage buddies Finn (Rami Malek), the expert tuner, Joe (Ramon Rodriguez), who drives the support truck, and Benny (Scott Mescudi) who flies a Cessna that never runs out of gas and can spot the police from the sky.
Keeping the adrenaline rushing, the action takes place with feet on the accelerators and everyone driving like maniacs, through traffic infused streets. To add to the tension, the sub-plots include some bounty killers hoping to drive Tobey and Julia off the road on Dino’s behest.
The storyline may be flimsy with a few over-the-top moments but the performances are all convincing. Aaron Paul with his husky voice and easy charisma is the perfect bad boy hero, Tobey. His character is well balanced by Imogen’s high-spirited personality with damsel in distress tropes.
Dominic Cooper gives a fair performance as Dino, but unfortunately, the character is so underdeveloped, so he seems like a stock cartoon villain. Same is the case with Michael Keaton, who makes a brief appearance as race organiser Monarch. His performance is forced loud, rather than fascinatingly captivating.
Director Scott Waugh who had earlier directed, “Act of Valor” has strived hard to make “Need For Speed” an acceptable “Fast and Furious” substitute with well-choreographed action sequences that involve actual cars and stunt drivers and not computer-generated images.
The visuals are convincing and realistic. The car flip, which killed Pete, can be touted as one of the most spectacular aerial cars flips ever-captured on film.
Overall, the film is engaging and entertaining.