Need for Speed

Breaking Bad’s bad boy Aaron Paul drives a quality action vehicle to victory in Need for Speed (2014), a superficial showcase for insane car anarchy that gets off to an inauspicious start, but soon delivers an unremitting series of spills and breakneck thrills, the obvious absence of frills notwithstanding. Need for Speed’s expository first ten minutes or so, establishing a multi-ethnic cadre of forgettable fist-bumping car freak buddies, is worth enduring to get to the inventive set pieces that will have viewers’ mouths hanging open in awe.

Need for Speed, with its references to Bullitt (1968), Smokey and the Bandit (1977), and Speed (1994), pays tribute to the long tradition of ante-upping automotive action extravaganzas, and also invites comparison to Vanishing Point (1971), with Michael Keaton assuming the charismatic commentator function that Cleavon Little performed in that film. Breaking Bad fans may miss Paul’s wiggerisms, but it is nice to see him cleaned up for a change. Imogen Poots, an unforgivable name for a lovely screen presence, lights up the screen with her blue eyes and smile as the romantic interest, while Dominic Cooper is adequately oily as the antagonist.

4.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Need for Speed is:

5. Multiculturalist and pro-miscegenation. Obligatory.

4. Mildly feminist. “Never judge a girl by her Gucci boots.” Paul and a buddy, after assuming that Poots is just a blonde bimbo, are shocked to learn that she knows all about cars.

3. Pro-military. An Apache helicopter comes to Paul’s rescue in a deadly pickle.

2. Anti-police. Cops are a bumbling and antagonistic nuisance throughout. “Racers should race. Cops should eat doughnuts.”

1. Class-conscious. Rich hotshot Dominic Cooper goes unpunished after leaving the scene of fatal accident for which he is principally responsible. Keaton, in announcing the winner of the De Leon, emphasizes that “blue collar kid” Paul has beaten his social better. The added fact that Paul’s business has been foreclosed, indirectly through the villainy of Dominic Cooper, furnishes extra motivation to avenge his buddy’s death.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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