The Media Initiative: NEED FOR SPEED Review (Justin)

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I was highly skeptical.

Why lie about it? I mean, I didn’t want to be, but let’s take a head-count here. With certain exceptions such as the first alternate-canon Resident Evil film from 2001 and Mortal Kombat–a decent and unexpectedly faithful action film from 1995–how many video game-to-film adaptations were actually beyond just mediocre?

Alone in the Dark. Bloodrayne. Doom. Street Fighter. Street Fighter: Legend of Chun-Li. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. The King of Fighters. Double Dragon. Super Mario Bros. House of the Dead. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. You see where I’m getting at?

Outside of giving me the incentive to jump out of the window of a skyscraper without a parachute, all these films are 2000% useless. My fears for Need for Speed were, indeed, justified. Allie had waymore faith in the film because she, unlike me, grew up with the NFS games. She knew the cars, the courses, the elements that differentiated NFS from, say, Ridge Racer or Gran Turismo; her dorkhood never ceases to amuse me. So after seeing the trailer with minimum CGI, Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul at the helm of gear-head protagonist, and Michael Keaton (aka Batman ’89) as a crazed commentator, I took Allie to the 3D show the day after it was released for a datenight. Hmmm. And it was good.

Wait. What?

YEAH. IT WAS, um, it was GOOD. We’re talking about an authentic racing film with healthy elements from the video game with real cars, real stunts, real shots. I’m sorry Fast & Furious, but NFS one-upped you this go-round. Let’s talk about why: the F&F franchise is not a series of movies about racing. The first film was a cop drama about a cop going undercover into the street racing world. The second was an action drama about an ex-cop and his childhood best friend working for the police as drivers–not necessarily racers. The fourth film was an action reunion that, again, had little to do with racing. The fifth film was a flat-out heist film. The sixth was a powerhouse action film with enough muscle to take out the T-1000. The third film, and ONLY the third film, was a film ABOUT racing. It had nothing to do with cops, robbing banks, or blowing up planes. And, if we can only compare F&F: Tokyo Drift and NFS, it’s a no-brainier which film is better.

Scott Mescudi (aka rapper Kid Cudi) debuts on the big screen in this film, and it’s not that impressive (haha) but he manages to get a few jokes in as the film’s comedic relief, alongside female lead Imogen Gay Poots, which might be the worst best name ever. Dominic Cooper’s antagonist is a bit dry, and even forgettable, which doesn’t add up considering the actor’s prowess. But then again, any skinny ol’ Joe can wear a European leather jacket, gel up his hair, get behind a wheel and do something nasty to earn role he portrayed so, don’t expect Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds or anything. Just some classic, very satisfying and refreshingly real (in every sense) car chases, races, and stunts. It’s true to the video game without being faithful to a fault. The 3D isn’t necessary really at all, but if you have the extra cash to blow and are particularly into the 3D era, why not. Otherwise, save the cash. Also remember that the cars are just as important as the drivers, so pay close attention here. The plot, and the cars’ roles in the plot, are nice.

In an era both where the success of Fast Five (2011) intelligently boosted the Fast series back to the foreground in Hollywood for anything revolving around cars, and where video game movies have always been known for nothing less than causing its audience to cry bloody murder, Need for Speed definitely carves out its own path and, surprisingly, holds its own. Not just as a car film, not just as a video game film, but as a film. If you think I’m giving it too much credit, watch it yourself and get back to us. It ain’t bad. We probably won’t have a video game movie this good for a long time, if ever.

Knack, out.

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