Timeless Motor Group Visits the “Need For Speed” Premiere
With the official nationwide release set for mid next month, Timeless Motor Group was honored to be invited to attend the early screening and Washington, DC premiere. Meeting up with long-standing members, TMG arrived an hour early anticipating a relatively easy going night at the theaters. What we never could have expected were the hundreds of fans, many of which were adorned in Breaking Bad paraphernalia, Fast & Furious gear, and free merchandise… the theater even had a poster signed by the entire cast to hand out to one lucky raffle winner. It was quite the event.
After loading up on popcorn, sodas, and finding our way to fantastic seats, we were greeted with behind the scenes extras, an interview with cast members, and an announcement of the potential sequel Dreamworks has in mind. At which point, the lights dimmed.
During the opening credits and throughout the entirety of the movie, I found myself constantly comparing “Need for Speed” to some of the trailblazers that made the film possible. From Smokey & The Bandit to the Fast & Furious franchise, the American car culture has always transitioned to screen… whether it did so well is another story. For every enjoyable ride with the Fast & Furious, there is a complete flop. (Who remembers 2004’s smashing hit, Taxi… crickets?). And while movies emphasizing the automotive culture have had a bumpy track-record, films based off video games have continually delivered a Jonny Cage split-punch to their gaming fanbase. So to mash those two shaky track records together was bound to result in some type of combustion. How would the two mix? Would air and fuel merge together to create a V12 powerhouse of a film or would they simply go up in smoke like Han Seoul-Oh in Tokyo Drift?
The consensus is in and “Need for Speed” delivers an almost identical experience to the film’s most featured vehicle : a heavily customized Ford Mustang. Like the Pony Car, “Need For Speed” delivers tons of power, undeniable action, and moments of impressive (story) handling, but the refined details don’t always match the nonstop thrill ride provided. In his first Hollywood blockbuster, Breaking Bad star Aaaron Paul shifts emotional gears and delivers a 500 horsepower performance as a long time gear-head. Paul serves as the heart and engine of the film and handles the entire performance like a veteran. I hope to see a great deal more of him in upcoming films. The rest of the supporting characters provide frills (they’re basically heated seats and GPS), a great deal of comedic relief, and hold their own on screen. Despite looking the part, Dominic Cooper fell short for me as the arch-nemesis and his relationship and story-arch didn’t much matter… were he a piece on the Mustang, it would have to be the brakes. While certainly adequate and up for the task, there was no WOW factor. On the contrary, Michael Keaton, playing an eccentric multi-millionaire, delivered a fantastic job and managed to steal the show in virtually every scene in which he was involved. I suppose after his stint as the Dark Knight opposite Jack Nicholson, Keaton is no stranger to fast cars. To stick with the auto references, Keaton could be compared to the new lighting on the Mustang. Rather superficial and, in some ways, unnecessary, but definitely adding a lot of flair to the project. All that said, while the actors served as the heart of the film, any auto fan knows the stars come with keys and four wheels.
So the cars… did they deliver? I think it’s safe to say Toretto, O’Conner, and Letty would have been thoroughly impressed. Unlike the F&F films where modified imports was the name of the game, Need For Speed as a franchise has always emphasized rare exotics and hyper-cars. With some Hollywood magic, they were brought to life. And, fortunately for everyone involved, Hollywood showed off their skills not with CGI but with ornately designed kit cars that served as fantastic stand ins for their million dollar (or more) muses. Buggatti, Koenigsegg, Lamborghini, McLaren, and others were present. Noticeably absent (as with the franchise’s games) were Ferraris… but honestly, with the others in the lineup, who cares? The cars looked and, even more so, sounded, fantastic. This is definitely a film to see in a powerful theater with cranked up bass. The rumbles of the vehicles, the helicopters, and the explosions put you right in the passenger seat for the thrill ride. While this film might not be for everyone, for those that are interested, I wouldn’t hold off to watch it on DVD as the experience will certainly fall flat.
“Need for Speed” starts off with a quarter mile sprint and hangs in for the last couple laps of the 24 hour race at Le Mans. The crew managed to take a kit car of a franchise and empower it with a capable cast, clever camera work, and a solid story line. So while it may not be quite as refined as the 2 million dollar Bugatti, does it really matter? When you’re flying at 200 mph, those tiny details are just a blur on an otherwise impressive product. While imperfect, I can guarantee I’ll be buckling up for a second lap with Need for Speed come March when it’s available to the general public.
Many thanks to AMC Theaters for the invitation and hospitality.