Video games get a bad rep for being bad. There's no other way to put it, I'm sure many of you could list multiple dodgy video game adaptations and most would agree. Doom, Warcraft, Mortal Kombat, The Angry Birds Movie, Hitman, House of The Dead, D.O.A: Dead or Alive, Max Payne, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and I could go on. It's fair to say that whilst a few of these boast impressive visuals and a bit more thought, so for example Hitman is clearly better than Uwe Boll's disaster House of The Dead, the majority of these adaptations lack the punch and enjoyment that the games had, therefore swaying away fans and moviegoers in general.
However, because of this bad rap, I personally feel that critics automatically switch off and make quick assumptions about any video game adaptation. The strongest case for that argument is Scott Waugh's 2014 adaptation Need For Speed. As a player of the games, I felt a movie adaptation would translate onscreen very well, as long as the intensity of the racing and escape sequences would be as thrilling onscreen as they were in the games. To me, this adaptation is a blistering chase movie with revenge on its palette. Critics were unfair with this one, I had a blast as did my mates whom I made watch it too. Not all video games adaptation suck and Need For Speed is one of the few that rises way above sucky and enters the territory of hugely enjoyable.
In this 2014 action thriller, street racer Tobey Marshall is put in prison guilty as charged for the death of his friend. Upon his release, Marshall exacts revenge on those who wronged him and must flee cross-country to clear his name and win the all-important DeLeon contest. You can't beat a good revenge thriller, Taken, Kill Bill, Death Proof, each of these featuring character who get glorious vengeance on those who deserve it, which gets the blood pumping and so many films have achieved that sense of righteousness, and Need For Speed adds to those films. Scott Waugh's directing puts you in the drivers seat, he knows when to turn up the action and when to dial it back to bring the characters back down to earth, the fact he emphasises all practical effects over CGI is something to admire in a decade filled with FX spectacle, not that I don't like it, but it's cool to see a film that relies on in-camera magic and stunt-work, of which this film boasts stellar stunts.
I'm regularly left in awe by the majority of action films, give me explosions, loud gunfights, insane car chases and CGI landscapes and I'm usually impressed. This film delivers some of the most teeth-gritting and fast paced car chases with deadly explosions I've seen in film, and after several viewings it still amazes me. Every single car chase and action sequences features some of the most dazzling and intricate camera movements, capturing the roar speed and close shaves these cars go through. I could tell you every single amazing shot in this film but that would involve a severely long list, the one above of the rolling Koenigsegg is jaw-dropping, the climactic race is one of the most suspenseful and awe-inspiring pieces of car-related cinema I've experienced. Waugh keeps your pulse-pounding and eyes glued to the screen with some truly incredible editing choices, dizzying camera angles and epic action shots, namely this one below. For those that may not be invested in the film, you can't deny that the practicality and achievements of this film have to be given merit.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X77lvXa9Qfc This scene has been cut a little but it's got the most of the meat left on the bone in terms of pure racing spectacle.
Beyond the death-defying stunt-work, beautiful cars and excellent action sequences, one moment in particular involving a helicopter and a car literally cliff-diving, the rest of the film's aspects hit the right notes too! As a revenge story, Need For Speed has more story than that of any of the games, and whilst the racing and cars is admittedly what I'm here for, I appreciated the fact that the writers actually made an effort to craft a story, as opposed to a lot of other video game films that don't really do that. I was invested in Tobey Marshall's request for revenge, and his devotion to get into the race that will essentially clear his name and prove him innocent of his accusations. I enjoyed the conflict between him and his main enemy Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) and also Tobey's teammates who follow him along the way. Nathan Furst's score goes from soothing strings to intense and triumphant to emphasise and heighten the stakes of the characters, I can definitely say I found myself more than gripped.
Aaron Paul is terrific as a man hellbent on revenge, you can see it in his eyes how much he wants to make things right, it's strange seeing Aaron Paul as an action hero but he makes it work, he's likeable, subtly amusing and so believable as an expert driver. Imogen Poots makes a great accomplice to Paul's Tobey Marshall, as Julia, who also is quite the driver, and the high-flying assistant to a rich car enthusiast. Poots' British accent, brash and blunt demeanour and humour go hand in hand to round out a charming performance. Dominic Cooper is clearly having a blast as the slimy, traitorous Dino Brewster, who betrays and kills Marshall's best friend Pete, played by the entertaining Harrison Gilbertson. The supporting performances are fine, Rami Malek, Kid Cudi, Michael Keaton and Dakota Johnson add star power when needed, though Ramon Rodriguez is devoid of charisma and energy, his best performance is from Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen, and that's not saying much.
As you can probably tell, I enjoyed this film a lot. I just don't see the hate for it, video game adaptations can be bad but some prove way better than the bottom of the barrel stuff we see. Masterful stunt-work, incredible action sequences, solid performances and a revenge story worth following, you can definitely feel the speed in this one. Rating: 9/10