'Need for Speed' is a rush for gearheads

  • Article by: ROGER MOORE , McClatchy News Service
  • Updated: March 13, 2014 - 8:27 PM

REVIEW: The “Need for Speed” video game gets full-screen treatment and the result, while often ridiculous, has lots of great car stunts.  |  ★★ out of 4 stars

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Aaron Paul in “Need for Speed.”

For anybody tired of digital movie car chases that, while fast and furious, routinely defy the laws of physics, here’s one where the cars and stunts are real (mostly) and spectacular. “Need for Speed” is a car lover’s dream, a showcase for everything from Bugatti Veyrons to vintage Camaros.

It’s a “Cannonball Run” throwback, with drivers punching through gears and burning through tires as they dodge the cops in illegal street races. Given state-of-the-art stunts and 3-D cinematography, it’s a trip.

But “Need for Speed” also makes the journey from video game to big screen without the curse of logic and without the benefit of a punchy, pithy script for its clichéd characters to quote.

Aaron Paul of “Breaking Bad” is Tobey, a car builder and racer from rural New York whose rivalry with the hometown boy (Dominic Cooper) who made it to the Indy 500 reveals the consequences of tearing it up on public highways. Tobey gets out of jail, rounds up his posse and sets out for revenge.

First, he has to get a car. So he talks a billionaire collector into lending him a customized Shelby Mustang. As if that would happen. Tobey’s team includes a pilot and a chase truck that can refuel that thirsty beast on the road. As if that’s practical.

And the car comes with its own “right seater,” a navigator / co-driver who is the owner’s hot blonde car acquisitions specialist, played by Imogen Poots.

That almost never happens.

They’re dashing from upstate New York, through New York City to Detroit, then Indiana, Monument Valley, Utah’s Bonneville salt flats and into San Francisco, where the real race will start. Apparently, their sat-nav sucks.

The real race, the DeLeon, is run by a mysterious, manic and motor-mouthed millionaire (Michael Keaton) who broadcasts the races online.

But get past the head-slappers, give up on hearing any snappy dialogue, and this is a car fanatic’s dream.

The cast doesn’t have the sassy swagger of the “Fast & Furious” crew. But the actors are second bananas here — to the Koenigsegg Ageras, Saleens and Shelby Mustang that feed America’s “Need for Speed,” on screen and off. And whatever the screenwriter’s failings, the cars deliver.

★★ out of 4 stars
  • NEED FOR SPEED

    ⋆⋆ out of four stars

    Rating: PG-13 for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language.

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