By Gary Murray

Starring Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper and Imogen Poots

Written by George Gatins

Directed by Scott Waugh

Running time 130 min

MPAA Rating PG-13

Selig Film Rating Matinee


Racing films have been around since the silent days of cinema.  Not many could understand the complexities of drama but everyone can find the thrill of cars racing at breakneck speeds.  The Keystone Kop car chases were some of the most successful first flicks. 

Racing has been a part of such modern movies as the serious Days of Thunder and Le Mans to the comic Gumball Rally and Talladega NightsThe Fast & Furious series has generated millions at the box office so it would make sense to follow down this roadway.  Need for Speed is another film dealing with a high-speed fuel-injected concept.

Based on a video game, Need for Speed is a story of getting even.  Tobey (Aaron Paul) is a New York mechanic who specializes in high performance cars.  Dino (Dominic Cooper) is a world-famous street racer who has a proposition for Tobey. 

There is an unfinished Shelby Cobra that was the last car to be customized by Shelby himself.  Dino has it and wants Tobey to complete the task.  The car will be worth a cool four million when done in the high-performance mode.  If Tobey completes the car, Dino can sell it and they will split the profits.  Since Tobey needs the money, he agrees.

The car sells to a multi-millionaire who is represented by Julia (Imogen Poots).  She is very savvy about high-performance autos and there is a spark between her and Tobey.  After she negotiates the sale of the Cobra, Dino, Tobey and Pete (Harrison Gilbertson) meet to divvy up the cash.  Pete says that Tobey is a better racer than Dino and the challenge is on.  The first big race happens and it eventually leads to tragedy.

After Tobey does two years in the aftermath the tragedy, all he wants is revenge.  First, he must reassemble the team of builders and get a car.  The guys have all moved on and some have taken jobs way outside of mechanical customization. 

There is a secret multi-million purse race that Dino has won before and Tobey wants to take him on.  He gets back the Shelby Cobra he built but Julia has to come along just to watch the car.  Tobey must get the attention of the street-racing community in order to get an invite.  He must also drive coast-to coast in 40 hours to make the race. 

Michael Keaton plays the Monarch, a guy who runs a blog and internet podcast about this type of racing.  It seems that his character is on the internet radio 24/7 and has no outside life. 

Need for Speed is about the cross country trip and the different hurtles that happen when one goes way over 100 mph on the roadways.  It goes from car chase to car chase and builds to the big final race.  Along the trek, there are speeding cars, massive skids and high-pitched squeals.  It is a showcase for high-speed, breakneck racing scenes.  

In a film where the two leads spend almost all of the time in a small confined space, the chemistry must work.  Imogen Poots and Aaron Paul work well as a couple and have individual screen presence.  The two play off each other and are believable in the situation.  In the Western milieu, he would be the stoic cowboy while she would be the rancher’s daughter in need of assistance. 

To be honest, this is a re-imaging of the western with pony cars taking the place of ponies.  Dominic Cooper couldn’t be any more of a bad guy if he were wearing a black 10-gallon hat. 

This film is directed by Scott Waugh, the man who was behind the helm of Act of Valor.  He handles the action sequences with a certain visual flair.  It would seem to be a monumental challenge to translate the live-action thrill of auto racing in a cinematic  venue and Scott Waugh does a better job with the racing than Ron Howard did in Rush.  The most impressive aspect of all the scenes is that they are done without CGI.  All the racing and crashing were shot on roadways and not conceived in a computer.

If you enjoyed Fast & Furious and Rush, this is your flick.  It has all the action/adventure that the patrons of these flicks crave without much of the silliness of the former and the pretense of the latter.  It falls into the category of a ‘just-right’ action piece, mind candy that is more entertainment than cinema. 

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