If you have ever been or are a fan of video games, it is more than likely you have played one of the Need for Speed racing games. Even if you haven’t played one, you’ve likely heard of them. According to the interwebs, there are 23 of them. They cover all types of racing scenarios, but the single common theme is driving like a bat out of hell as fast as humanly possible. In my opinion, there isn’t a whole lot of substance to them. Sure, you can modify your cars in some, and driving fast is fun, but how many times can you be entertained by flying through the same red light, chased by the same cop car through the same digitally altered background? Right… I forgot, at least 23 times. Apparently, since we are so easily entertained, Electronic Arts, the company that initially revved up the franchise, decided it was a good idea to go ahead and join the heartless masses and push a film adaptation into theaters.
So how do you transform a successful racing game into a successful film? Well, I’ll give you a hint. Don’t make it anything like Street Fighter. Diverging from a franchise without something as sound as a solid character to start from is a daunting task. However, if you can find some relatable feeling of regret, anger, or even insanity, we now we have something we can all jump on board with. That is what separates the failures from the blockbusters. A creative story line with driven characters can change an entire movie, and I have to give credit here because that is exactly what was done in with Need for Speed.
While most people, myself included, would always love seeing Nicholas Cage scream act again, he probably wouldn’t have done well in this film. Need for Speed needed someone younger and truer to current generations to bridge the gap between white-knuckled racing scenes and heartfelt screen time. Following up his success with Breaking Bad, and true to the youthful generations of gamers, Aaron Paul does an excellent job in this film portraying the jaw clenched, objective-focused, revenge machine that is Tobey Marshall. The film does an excellent job of telling his story of a blue-collared mechanic with an artist’s touch at driving a car. It builds to show a somewhat perfect storm of car and driver, guiding the direction of the film. Marshall has a certain quality to him that translates evenly into someone who can carry this story of retribution to the finish line.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen a decent driving flick on the big screen; the most recent I can think of is the 2011 film Drive. Aaron Paul takes Need for Speed from what could be another boring game-to-film adaptation to a stand-alone quality film. He is not alone, though. Joined by a comical cast of Ramon Rodriguez, Scott Mescudi, and Rami Malek, the trio will release the tension when you’re not squeezing your seat cushion, clenching your teeth, and remembering not to hold your breath through the elaborate driving sequences. The film is well-balanced, teetering between a gut-turning retribution story and a thrill-seeking adrenaline rush. The film shows how hard it can be for someone struggling to make things right for the people around you. It’s a story of trials and the long road people must travel in order to succeed and provide for the ones you love.
The visuals are top notch and exactly what you would expect from a film based on the most successful driving video games of all time. When you ride with Tobey Marshall, you can feel the adrenaline build up inside you. The lights flash by, you struggle to read the heads up display, and while focusing on the onslaught of turns and traffic, you’ll fly under overpasses, jump over trains, and thoroughly enjoy the ride. The thrill is real. This is definitely an action filled storyline. Full of slow walks away from explosions, bold look ups during overly dramatic moments, and sunlit landscapes, the film fits the bill when it comes to dramatic overplay. However, it works in way I never would have imagined for a film with such humble influences.
To be honest, I got a lot of what I was not expecting from Need for Speed. Of course, there are lots of amazing cars, stunts, and driving but the entire film is something different. Seemingly, it felt like a strange combination of something like Mad Max, Drive, Fast and the Furious, and Battleship all rolled into one film. The acting is top notch and Paul is a master of pure emotion. He shows rage and desperation for vengeance from which I have seen only hints from him before. If not for the story, go to see the plethora of cars in this film. Obviously, the producers had a huge budget in this area because the collection is astounding. All and all, I expect this film to be an early breakout success of the year. Most moviegoers will not be disappointed and will thoroughly enjoy this soon to be classic as I did. Of course, if I was going to use a video game for a movie, we all know Mariokart is where it’s at. I’ll forgive you this time Aaron Paul.
I would give Need for Speed 4 “Supercars” out of 5.
by Jason Burleson