‘Need for Speed’ traps viewers in video game flick


Catholic News Service

The nearly plot-free milieu of “Need for Speed” may appeal to young men who prefer their car chases uncomplicated. Many others, however, will find the film, based on the video game series of the same name, morally troubling.

Dominic Cooper stars stars in a scene from the movie “Need For Speed.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
(CNS photo/DreamWorks)

To begin with, the story has illegal city street racing at great hazard to passers-by without consequence, until someone gets killed. After that, it’s a revenge tale for Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul), who took the rap, including a prison term, for his friend’s death while the other participant, Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), evaded prosecution.

The dominant player is a 900-horsepower Mustang with a top speed of more than 230 mph. It’s an object of veneration since it’s said to be the last vehicle developed by automotive-design legend Carroll Shelby. It rumbles throughout the picture, including in the climactic invitation-only (but nonetheless illicit) contest sponsored by “The Monarch,” a reclusive racing promoter played by Michael Keaton.

Before that, Tobey, breaking the terms of his parole, speeds across the country accompanied by attractive British car consultant Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots). She’s game for just about anything, including a high-speed refueling.

The film’s epic 130 minutes also include a sequence in which another driver, Joe Peck (Raymond Rodriguez), who is stuck in an office job and eager to rejoin his compadres for the big showdown, makes good his escape by stripping naked as he leaves work. Nudity in films is often gratuitous, but in this case, it’s especially pointless.

Things reach a low point as the speed junkies heedlessly destroy the possessions of a homeless man. It makes for a queasy spectacle. But director Scott Waugh and screenwriting brothers George and John Gatins must be hoping that their callous characters somehow come off as lovable good ol’ boys in the “Dukes of Hazzard” mold.

The film contains reckless street racing, rear male nudity, and some crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.