NEED FOR SPEED
"This ain't just about racing."
(14 March 2014) Director: Scott Waugh1
Writers: Screenplay George Gatins | Story George Gatins and John Gatins
What's more American than their love of cars? How about a drive-in? Meet small-town mechanic and local street-racing legend "Tobey Marshall" (Aaron Paul) who lost his girl to 'the bad guy': his high-school football and racing rival turned professional driver. So, this movie ain't just about racing, it's about Revenge. Each major plot point kicks up the revenge motive more and more, but with a twist. The movie featured a lot of elements we loved in movies like Bullit (1968), American Graffiti (1973), Death Race 2000 (1975), Grand Theft Auto (1977), The Cannonball Run (1981), Thelma & Louise (1991), The Fast and The Furious series, and Getaway (2013), and it doesn't take long for the movie to get right into a race.
So, we start with bitterness over some past "locker-room" drama, plus losing his girl to the big City—where she'd rather be with a 'real' driver—and small-town-hero Tobey Marshall is about to lose his father's Mechanic shop to foreclosure. Winning the $5,000 local street racing purse helps, but it's not enough. Enter "Dino Brewster" (Dominic Cooper) who now has a mega car dealership of some sort and has acquired the legendary unfinished final car famed designer Carroll Shelby was working on for Ford at the time of his 2012 death. [The car in the movie is a modified 2013 FORD Mustang Shelby GT500. ("Shelby was working on 50th anniversary edition of the Mustang when he died at the age of 89, but the car in the movie is a fictionalized."2)] Brewster brings the proposition of earning $500,000 to Marshall in return for finishing the car. He pays Marshall a great compliment saying that in his professional racing experience, none of the mechanics have been as good as Marshall and his shop buddies.
As much as Marshall dislikes Brewster, in order to keep the shop, he must accept, and of course, his buddies support him. There was, surprisingly, no working-on-the-car, auto-shop-porn, male-bonding, time-lapse car-transforming montage, instead, they cut to the ultimate Ford commercial. Mustangs run on a 'screen' which is a car cover. The crumble like liquid nitrogen and the pieces form the outline of the Mustang beneath the cover, which goes to the reveal.
Marshall and 'the girl' sell the car (we get to see it go over 230 miles per hour). Brewster and Marshall exchange words. It's just Brewster's way of reneging on the deal. They are still fighting over who's the better driver. If Marshall loses, Brewster keeps all the money. Cut to the second race. Brewseter's uncle has 3 Koenigsegg Agera R's (white, silver, and red). The minute they chose cars and Pete got the white car, I knew it was he who would die in the movie. In the trailer I thought it might be the girlfriend, but this was more devastating because Pete was an innocent.
This second race takes them on the highway and we see a To-Live-And-Die-In-L.A.-style segment against oncoming traffic. Up to this point, when Marshall is able to get back into the right direction of moving traffic, we think it's just street racing. It will be fine. Brewster has other ideas. He's being blocked by Pete so Marshall can win (Marshall is the better driver), so Brewster clips Pete's car. At this point the movie splits into the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do. Brewster did the wrong thing—all that matters to him is winning. Pete spins out of control and even though I saw a still of his car crash, I had no idea it's place in the movie. It was a devastating to watch, a tribute to the appeal of Harrison Gilbertson's performance and the skilled stunt work orchestrated by Superstar Stuntman Lance Gilbert (watch the video below to see the movie magic). It drives home our choices in life, unrecoverable circumstances, and irreplaceable costs. Brewster must have the money. Marshall does the right thing and turns around to go help Pete, thereby losing the race. Since Pete is killed, Brewster covers up his participation/guilt, framing Marshall who goes to jail for manslaughter. Marshall loses everything, his best friend, his girl (he already had but now she thinks he's responsible for the death of her little brother), his family business, and his freedom, but apparently not his drivers' license (just kidding). The minute he's out he breaks parole to race. When you're breaking parole by crossing state lines, what's a little thing like a suspended license?
Marshall and the girl (I keep calling her that because I don't think I heard her character name once in the movie), start a cross-country trek to try to get into an underground high-stakes, big-purse race known as the "De Leon" (like the video-game), and they re-assemble their old team. I particularly enjoyed "Finn" (Rami Malek) quitting his desk job on the spot, stripping off his clothes and kissing his office crush, before flipping everyone off "Have a nice day you miserable bastards." When asked why he's naked he replies "To make sure I never come back." (Something every underpaid office worker dreams about: never going back.) Marshall's engine revving to get Finn back on the team alerts the police and there is one hell of a chase scene through downtown Detroit.
The De Leon race is about Marshall beating Brewster. Brewster, ever the dirty player, puts a price on Marshall's head and that leads to some interesting crashes. There's a couple other incredible stunt driving scenes: the one in Detroit features a "grasshopper" (photo above), and another in a small tour detour features a "Bus, bus, bus", but I don't want to spoil any more scenes. One thing that hit me was that Aaron Paul was very "John McClane" in this (would love to see him star in Die Hardest!). He's today's everyman to be sure, and we will always see Jesse Pinkman when we look at him, "bitch", and we root for him for all that he went through in Breaking Bad in the way that movies blur actors' roles and reality.
The De Leon goes so quickly we hardly have time to drool over the 2010 Bugatti Veyron SS, Saleen S7, Spania GTA, 2010 Lambourghini Sesto Elemento, 2013 McLaren P1, and the 2011 Koenigsegg Agera R, which reappears for an encore. The whole movie has been a set-up fueling the passion for this final race, and there's never a dull moment. Michael Keaton's character calls it a "dangerous race". That's an understatement. It leaves me wondering how does everyone involved not go to jail after causing so much damage? There are more spectacular crashes, close calls, and outright disasters! Racers get picked off, cop cars are demolished, innocent drivers smash into one another. It's great! (you know what I mean)
In the final moments Brewster pulls the same move that killed Pete on another racer "Texas Mike," and then he tries to pull the same move on Marshall. Clearly, he Pete's death taught him nothing. Marshall is too smart for that though, and he brakes and lets Brewster pass. Brewster clearly wants to kill him. When Marshall brakes, Brewster loses control and crashes. Since the race was down to just the two of them, Marshall has plenty of time to go back, and does. He pulls Brewster from the burning wreck just before it would have incinerated him. Since Marshall finally has the evidence (the red car) to prove he was innocent, you know Brewster's going to jail and Marshall's name will be cleared. There's just the little matter of the illegal race. Marshall decides to finish the race after all, and wins, but they don't go into whether or not he gets the cars or money. He's already won by being the better person and doing the right thing again. Once he finds out Brewster's fine, though, he punches him. Brewster gets off easy.
Marshall serves 178 days for illegal street racing, and what does he do when he gets out? Drive. By now you would think his drivers license is revoked. They set it up for a part two. I'd watch that. This movie was short on physical muscle and cheesy one-liners, but it satisfied most of my Action Movie Essentials: The Hero has to be on the Right Side (check), with Skills (check), Explosions and Vehicle Chases, Boy Toys (check, check, check+), Camaraderie and Dominance (check), and The RUSH (check)! It's a good movie. The stunts are worth it alone, but Aaron Paul is great in it. Would love to see him in more Action Movies, talking trash! with Johnny Strong . . . Oh Yeah!!
______________________________1 Need for Speed's Director is Scott Waugh, and it's a BANDITO BROTHERS Production . . . you know, the company owned by Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh who did Act of Valor. That alone is a reason to see it!
2 "Custom Shelby Mustang grabs starring role in Aaron Paul film 'Need For Speed'" March 14, 2014, Associated Press
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