There isn’t one idea in this movie more interesting than anything Roger Corman ever made. On the other hand, the casting and the offhand beauty of this movie are way beyond any of Corman’s drive-in fare, even with Spielberg and Coppola at the helms. Director Scott Waugh is a former stuntman who made a couple of features and produced the stunning 2003 surf movie Step Into Liquid. Let’s nominate him right now for B-Moviemaker of the Decade, an award show I would actually like to see.
Need for Speed features an utterly charismatic cast that includes some of the most intriguing young faces in film today, including Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, An Education’s Dominic Cooper, and the seemingly ubiquitous Imogen Poots. They all get chances to light up the action, even after you put aside dumbass scenes like one where the characters refuel on the highway during a hell-bent 45-hour drive from New York to San Francisco. Don’t try this at home, kids. Still, watching Paul and Poots making winsome eyes at each other while the spires of Arizona appear in the morning sunlight is way more spectacular than it sounds.
Plenty of reckless racing, macho posturing, and superbly stupid cameos fill the time between, including our own Michael Keaton as a kind of Internet Greek chorus. But there are also some gratuitously beautiful shots of Mount Kisco, New York, and the Bay Bridge from the Embarcadero at high tide. I’m not sure if it’s exploitative junk or a great directorial debut, but it’s certainly a film that’s hard to forget.