Tuesday, March 25, 2014

“Need for Speed” – Say it with me: Imogen Poots. Poots.

There must be something wrong with me. I just enjoyed watching a movie called Need for Speed. I just enjoyed a movie based on a car-racing video game with no story. I just enjoyed a movie where Michael Keaton was forced to host a podcast and refer to himself as The Monarch. In fact, I haven’t seen a bad movie yet this year. Some questionable movies, sure, but nothing that made me want to wash my eyes out with razor blades. By this time last year, I had already considered suicide by popcorn while enduring such crap as Gangster Squad, A Good Day to Die Hard, the massively disappointing Oz: The Great and Powerful, Olympus Has Fallen, and was a couple days from sitting through G.I. Joe: Retaliation. It could be that I’m so desperate to purge the awful 2013 movie season from my mind that I’m willing to enjoy anything at this point. It could also be that I’ve become overly pessimistic, especially when a movie like Need for Speed releases. I really don’t know. What I do know is that I just enjoyed a movie that was one Burt Reynolds short of being Smokey and the Bandit 4: I got a Mustang!

In Need for Speed, Aaron Paul plays Tobey Marshall, a mechanic in some random small town in New York who street races with his friends and is about to lose his garage to the bank. Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), an old racing rival, shows up offering him and his crew a job restoring a Mustang that Carroll Shelby was working on when he died. Dino estimates the car will sell for $2 million and offers Tobey 25% of whatever it actually sells for. Now, you might think this is going to be the overarching plot of the movie – something like once they finish the car, Tobey will have to drive it to the auction, but will only have 15 hours before the bank forecloses on his garage and Dino will turn out to be the owner of the bank. Ha! Wrong! The actual plot is far more…well…it’s actually very similar to that.

About 94 seconds after agreeing to the deal, the car is finished and up for auction in England where an Englishwoman named Julia (Imogen Poots) agrees to purchase the car if Tobey’s claim that it can go 230 miles per hour is proven true. Tobey proves it the next morning and Julia purchases the car for her employer for $2.7 million. I know what you’re thinking – that sure was a quick movie. Well, right after driving the car away, Dino challenges Tobey to a race staking his 75% of the sale against Tobey’s 25%. This is the one part of the movie that kind of pissed me off because Tobey has been portrayed as cool-headed and patient (they will even describe his racing this way), yet he agrees to the race without even thinking about it, even though he talked his entire crew into the restoration job in the first place and they are all counting on him. It’s contrived, stupid, lazy, and whatever other synonym you can think of. Apparently, whatever is wrong with me allowed that schlock to slide with very little protest.

Included in the race is Dino’s girlfriend’s brother who is a member of Tobey’s crew. I won’t ruin the results of the race for you or why the brother is important, but let’s just call it the transition from act one that tenuously provides the motivation for Tobey for the remainder of the film. And in case you were wondering, the garage turns out to be a giant MacGuffin.

Act two picks up a couple of years later with Tobey looking for revenge against Dino. He decides the only way to do this is to enter a secret race organized annually by The Monarch known as the De Leon. Following the standard quest formula, Tobey must gather his gang back together, find a car to race (is there any doubt in your mind, at all, what car he’ll be driving?), and drive across the country to race location. Naturally, there’s also a romantic interest in the form of Julia, who insists on riding shotgun to “look after the car.” Like I said, this movie was one Jackie Gleason short of Smokey and the Bandit 4: De Leon.

So, why did I enjoy this movie again? Well, for starters, I liked Smokey and the Bandit. On that note, I also liked Cannonball Run. Both are movies about cross-country racing and who doesn’t love a good bunch of car chase scenes? Need for Speed has enough car chases to satisfy a crack-riddled monkey with ADD. What’s more is those scenes are all pretty well done. And, like those past movies, Need for Speed has decent comedy relief to keep the film from taking itself too seriously and keeps the romance angle tempered to just the right amount of subtle. Perhaps the biggest reason for my enjoyment is because I have always loved fast, sleek, exotic sports cars like Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and Bughattis and that’s primarily what is being raced in this film. On the flip side, besides the terrible contrivance I mentioned earlier, Paul plays Tobey like Batman crossed with a pommel horse and Keaton is given so little to do that he almost explodes while trying to deliver the few ridiculous lines he does have. But even those things ended up being more entertaining than annoying.

What I’m trying to say is that there is obviously something wrong with me when I can look past stiff acting, contrived writing, and bad dialogue simply because car chases are even more awesome with European super cars. Of course, it might also because it’s fun to say Imogen Poots’ name. Hehe.

Rating: Ask for one dollar back. This movie had no right to be as good as turned out, but…Poots.


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  3. I like video games and I like cars and I like car racing video games and I certainly like movies, but I did not care for this movie based on a car racing video game.