There are movies that have lazy screenplays, and then there’s NEED FOR SPEED – a movie so cretinous you sit there wondering if its merely grossly incompetent, or cynically holding its audience in contempt; this is the summer movie equivalent of Rebekah Brooks.
It’s not like screenwriter George Gatins needed to reinvent the wheel here – throw the superficialities of EA’s cash cow video game series (which I’ve not played, but look like a damn sight more fun than this) around a few genre staples, and let the appropriate visual departments take care of the rest.
But no. Gatins chooses instead to vomit up an array of irritating characters full of unnecessary ‘quirks’ - and he has as much difficulty remembering their backstories and motivations as he does joining up the story's positively epileptic tonal shifts. Even from a wider story perspective, it’s obvious that George and brother John (who only gets a ‘story’ credit – he should be thankful) have simply thrown every genre cliché at the wall. Trouble is it all stuck, and neither sibling bothered to wipe any of it off, so we’re left with about 40 more minutes of this shit than was ever needed.
Short version: I’ve farted better scripts than this.
Stunt man-turned director Scott Waugh still has a lot to learn about virtually every aspect of directing other than stunt work. As it is, Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Imogen Poots (FILTH), Dominic Cooper (THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE) and Michael Keaton (who between this and ROBOCOP must have bought himself something lovely and/or very expensive in the last 12 months) struggle through this half-hearted toss - lesser actors would have drowned completely.
But we’re not here to see a good script, or great performances, right? (Wrong actually, but I’ll let that slide for now.) We’re here to see the cars, and what can be done with them. And the cars are pretty, I’ll give Dreamworks that much. Also, to Waugh's credit the in-camera stunt work is largely impressive, yet a ‘big moment’ (used in the TV spots) climaxes in a laughably poor CG job – bitter irony for a movie based on a computer game. Similarly, all that money on effects and they put Keaton in front of a thoroughly unconvincing bit of green screen…? (But then again, by that point who cares?)
Don’t get me wrong - I love car movies, so to those who might watch this under the pretense they were until now too young or too ignorant of the genre to know any better: if you want to see a good one, watch BULLITT (referenced in NFS), watch THE FRENCH CONNECTION, watch MAD MAX 2, watch THE BLUES BROTHERS, watch VANISHING POINT, watch DEATH PROOF, watch FAST 5 again – hell, go and play more of whichever is the best NEED FOR SPEED game in the series, but stay away from this piss-poor wannabe.
NEED FOR SPEED opens March 12 in the UK, March 13 in Australia, March 14 in the USA and March 20 in New Zealand.