Being a film reviewer isn’t always as easy as saying whether or not something is good or bad; sometimes a film comes along that is so staggeringly awful it becomes paradoxically entertaining, and therefore hard to assign a rating out of 5. I mean, for all a film’s faults, if you can get some entertainment out of it (albeit not the kind the filmmakers intended) surely it’s done its job properly?
Need for Speed manages to be as entertaining as any four or five star film despite being as evidently terrible as a one or two star film. If it wasn’t for the fact I’m bound to a numbering system, I would probably give it a “?” out of 5.
As far as I can remember, there was no real storyline to the Need for Speed videogames, and so the actual narrative is as simplistic as possible- whilst watching the film you feel your IQ significantly lowering. After helping make a new supercar that can attain speeds of up to 230mph, mechanic and amateur drag-race wunderkind Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul, clearly only starring in this film for the money) ends up feuding with a car entrepreneur (Dominic Cooper) about which of them is the fastest driver. Their race ends up costing the life of Marshall’s brother in an overblown car-crash scene which unintentionally resembles The Blues Brothers. Released from prison, Marshall wants to prove he isn’t responsible for his brother’s death. How? By racing across the country of course (I’m still confused as to how this makes sense).
As I’ve previously stated, Need for Speed is the best kind of bad film due to its fundamental lack of self-awareness. In an era where films like Sharknado try too hard to be “so bad it’s good”, Need for Speed is needed to show that true awfulness is effortless. Humourless dialogue comprised entirely of late 80’s/early 90’s pop culture references (“It looks like Speed down there Keanu!”), outdated sexism that wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and gratuitous homoeroticism that culminates in a scene of full male nudity that may be this year’s biggest “WTF” movie moment barely scratch the surface of how odd the movie is.
To a certain extent, director Scott Waugh (whose previous film Act of Valour is gratuitously advertised here) has at least managed to recapture the essence of videogame action onscreen; the first racing sequence (and the only one not ruined by slow-mo overuse) takes place entirely in the inner-city streets that are free of traffic and civilisation in general (with the exception of one homeless person) that seem to only exist in racing video games. Sadly, in terms of characterisation and plot, Waugh has taken his cues from old-school video games, rather than the narratively accomplished games of today, to make for a film that would be forgettable if it wasn’t so amusingly bad.
It seems there will never be a good movie to be made out of a video game – as it stands, the two best videogame movies are ones which aren’t actually based on video games (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Wreck-it Ralph).