More often than not, the comparison is going to be justified, given that the F&F franchise seems to have set the standards in the genre and in the process created the impression that all one needs is to create a mega million dollar franchise, have a lot of star power, enjoy car chases and have gorgeous women around them.
Given the number of remakes, spin-offs and downright rip-offs hitting the market these days, we could use that one successful film by which all others are measured by in every genre.
However, it has also been said, “imitation is the purest form of flattery”. But then again, who said Universal Pictures bought all rights, either paper or creative, when they introduced us to the films back in 2001.
A perfect balance is then needed when approaching such films, we need to put each and every film in its rightful context.
One such film, probably victim of such comparison, is Ster Kinekor’s latest flick Need For Speed, the DreamWorks car thriller starring Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper and Michael Keaton.
At first view, “Need for Speed” seems like one of those films destined for failure as it pales in comparison to a host of other well marketed and mega million dollar car chase movies like “The Italian Job”, The “F&F” and “Transporter” franchises.
It really doesn’t help the film’s case that there is relatively no star power at all. It also has a very poor script and a cluster of average performances
However, through all these negative aspects, the most surprising thing is that director Scott Waugh still managed to make them all work out for the good and create a decent product.
The film follows the trials of speed racer and motor engineer Tobey Marshall, who upon clinching the deal of a lifetime,selling his latest creation for US$4 million, gets framed for murder by his partner (Dino Brewster) who is a spoiled, and untalented rich racer.
He serves two years for culpable homicide and upon release, he sets out on a journey to redeem himself and enter a high stakes secretive race known as The DeLeon.
The race, according to him, is the solution to all his problems as by virtue of winning he hopes to beat his former partner and tormentor Brewster, clear his name and win the prize money.
Writer George Gatins coined arguably one of the most predictable and cliché-ridden scripts I have seen in a long time and I would go as far as saying one that belonged to the 90s rather than modern times.
He is only saved by how he turned this ordinary story into one of redemption rather than revenge and let’s be honest, “everybody loves a good redemption story”.
It wouldn’t have taken much for Marshall to simply get out of jail and go on a killing spree which would end with a drag-out fist fight between the two (Marshall and Brewster) but he selects the high road and clear his name with minimum violence.
That alone makes for a better narrative and more intriguing story.
The way they created the death scene during the film’s climax paid off. While it was kind of predictable, the mere fact that Gatin went there, a place where any modern day writer would not go to make the scene stand out.
The stunts and car chases were a nice touch and well choreographed.
The stars demonstrate good chemistry and work well to produce a good product.
Aaron Paul and Dominic Cooper hardly have any lines or dialogue but put body language and facial expression onto a whole new level.
I haven’t seen such brilliant physical performances since the heydays of Charlie Chaplin and Rowan Atkinson.
It is, however, in the supporting cast department that I believe the film shines like a beacon as Imogen Poots, Scott Mescudi and Rami Malek come together to save the film from mediocrity.
Marshall’s pit crew, Poots (Jullia Maddon) put a good performance as Marshall’s love interest and holds her own in an otherwise male-dominated cast. Mescudi (Benny) and Malek (Finn) help keep the car chases and action ride flowing by introducing humour and they did a very good job.
Special mention also has to go to Keaton in his stellar depiction of Monarch, owner of the DeLeon race.
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