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NEED FOR SPEED
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Ramon Rodriguez, Michael Keaton
Director: Scott Waugh
Audio: DTS HD 7.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.39:1
Studio: Touchstone/Dreamworks
Features: See Review
Length: 131 Minutes
Release Date: August 5, 2014

Racing is an art. Racing with passion...dude, that’s high art.”

Film **

Need For Speed may strike many as a Fast and the Furious wannabe. But truth be told, the video game which inspired the movie may have just as well inspired that huge money making franchise, as it was in existence before the first installment surfaced in 2001. And it may be just a case of poor timing on the arrival of the movie adaptation because when compared to the fifth and sixth Fast and the Furious movies, Need For Speed comes up short on intense thrills.

Too bad because I was mainly looking forward to this movie based on the simple presence of actor Aaron Paul, who was one of the major elements in making the ground-breaking series Breaking Bad the television powerhouse that it was right from his very first moments as high school drop out/meth expert Jesse Pinkman. Paul fairs very well in the action hero role, though at the same time one wishes he was given more to do here. But he will indeed move on to bigger and better things and I look forward to his next film appearance.

The story involves Tobey Marshall (Paul), an auto mechanic/street racer who is asked to restore a car by wealthy businessman Dino (Dominic Cooper). Tobey delivers on his promise, and a celebratory street race ensues involving Tobey, Dino and a few others. The race ends in tragedy though, as Tobey’s best friend and brother of his ex-girlfriend (who is now dating Dino) is killed in a fiery crash caused by Dino. However, Tobey is somehow framed for the murder.

After serving a two year prison term, Tobey is released with only revenge in mind. This involves entering a cross country road race, organized by underground radio broadcaster Monarch (Michael Keaton). Dino will be part of this race as well, and Tobey gets his former crew back together and joins forces with auto analyst Julia (Imogen Poots) in his effort to deliver payback on the roads.

From a technical standpoint, the movie is a pure marvel. Director Scott Waugh (Act of Valor) made a choice right from the beginning to include little to no CG and have real cars speeding and getting demolished, and that is exactly what you see in the racing sequences which are shot quite marvelously. He also incorporates great camera work in the interior of the cars so you feel as though you are right there in the driver’s seat.

And in addition to that, we have Michael Keaton going insanely berserk in what is clearly the most fun the actor has had in some time. In fact, there were moments where I seriously felt he was trying to channel Nicholson’s Jack Napier from Batman. It may have been a strictly for the paycheck role, as Keaton is confined to one set away from the rest of the action, but doggone it he is so fun to watch here.

I wish those qualities could outweigh the movie’s shortcomings, but unfortunately they don’t. Outside of the racing scenes, the movie is pretty poorly paced and has one too many unnecessary scenes, which may explain why it has a 2 hour and 11 minute running time. The hallmark of which is a needlessly long sequence involving one of Tobey’s former crew members being persuaded to leave his high-paying desk job and return to help him out for the cross country race, the result of which is a lame gag where he strips down naked as he quits his job and exits the building (backed up by a god awful cover of my favorite Aerosmith song, “Back in the Saddle”, I might add).

Need For Speed is a technically superb but otherwise bland enterprise. What could have been an exciting, thrill a minute ride is a rather dully paced movie, with too many filler scenes that simply aren’t needed. However, if you’re an extreme car buff or have a passion for the video game, chances are you will like what you see.

Video ****

The Blu-ray from Touchstone is a visual marvel, and fully encompasses this techinally impressive feature. The HD look offers absolute crisp, fully detailed imagery. A great deal of the action takes place in outdoor daylight, which is captured wonderfully. The many cars of the movie appear fantastically, as well!

Audio ****

Any movie about street racing is bound to sound phenomenal on Blu-ray, especially when equipped which a ferocious 7.1 DTS HD mix! The race scenes are front and center here, and everything from the roar of the engine to the many insane car crashes is captured amazing well here. Dialogue delivery and music playback are terrifically balanced, in addition!

Features ***

We get some very neat extras on this Blu-ray, starting with an intriguing commentary with actor Aaron Paul and director Scott Waugh. In addition, we also get a number of featurettes including “Capturing Speed: Making an Authentic Car Movie”, which takes a look at what went into all of the movie’s car stunts. Then there’s “Ties That Bind” where we learn about the family of stunt men who participated in the film’s production. There’s also “The Circus is in Town”, chronicling the production from area of the country to another, and “The Sound of Need for Speed”, which looks at the film’s key element! Rounding out the extras are Outtakes, Deleted Scenes and a trailer for the new game in the series, titled “Need For Speed Rivals”.

Summary:

It had the right ingredients for a movie to rival The Fast and the Furious, and I’m always rooting for Aaron Paul to become a major leading actor, but Need For Speed lags unnecessarily in areas and manages to bore outside the racing moments...oh and Michael Keaton’s moments too. One fantastic sounding Blu-ray, though!

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