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Need for Speed Blu-ray + Digital HD Digital Copy Review

Need for Speed (2014) movie poster Need for Speed

Theatrical Release: March 14, 2014 / Running Time: 131 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Scott Waugh / Writers: George Gatins (story & screenplay); John Gatins (story)

Cast: Aaron Paul (Tobey Marshall), Dominic Cooper (Dino Brewster), Imogen Poots (Julia Maddon), Scott Mescudi (Benny "Maverick"), Rami Malek (Finn), Ramon Rodriguez (Joe Peck), Harrison Gilbertson (Little Pete Coleman), Dakota Johnson (Anita Coleman), Stevie Ray Dallimore (Bill Ingram), Michael Keaton (Monarch)

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A movie career seemed inevitable for Aaron Paul following all the goodwill he earned over five seasons of playing Jesse Pinkman on the acclaimed, decorated, and ultimately quite popular "Breaking Bad."
Paul leaps right to leading man status in Need for Speed, a feature film adaptation of the Electronic Arts video game series that turned twenty this year.

Paul plays Tobey Marshall, a working class man from Mount Kisco, New York (oddly a setting that's repeatedly reinforced) who inherits the custom racing shop of his late father. In danger of losing the family business even with the side winnings of his skillful illegal drag racing, Tobey doesn't bat an eye when smug old nemesis Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper, playing American) hires Tobey and company to build a Ford Mustang with an engine that legendary car designer Carroll Shelby worked on up to his death.

After completing the job, Tobey agrees to lay down his share of the car's $2.7 million sale in an all-or-nothing race against Dino. That race ends disastrously, with Tobey being framed for theft and the vehicular manslaughter of a close friend.

"Need for Speed" stars Aaron Paul as Tobey Marshall, a New York mechanic and racer who violates his parole to settle a score and prove his innocence.

Released from jail two years later, Tobey is ready to even the score. With the right-hand girl (Imogen Poots) of the British owner of that speedy silver Mustang providing the car, Tobey sets out to make a parole-violating cross-country drive to a California location to be determined where he will compete in the De Leon, a secret unsanctioned race for elite vehicles, against Dino. Covering the challenge is Monarch (Michael Keaton), some of kind webcaster who organizes the event.

Need for Speed is a 90-minute action movie in a 130-minute wrapper. Routine and predictable, it easily devotes more thought to staging the scenic races, chases, and stunts than it does to telling a story and developing these characters. Commercially, that isn't a problem; look no further than the prosperous Fast and Furious series for proof of that. Artistically, though, this is a lacking piece of entertainment.

Act of Valor's Scott Waugh, directing only his second film after nearly twenty years in stunts, apes Jerry Bruckheimer as much as the Fast franchise and not just his slick production values but also his reliance on an interchangeable ensemble and humor. Need is prolonged by some forced and sometimes pained comic relief mostly assigned to rapper Kid Cudi (billed under his birth name of Scott Mescudi and playing Tobey's eyes in the sky) and Night at the Museum fixture Rami Malek. There are presumably some nods to the games, but nothing that will keep non-gamers from following the thin tale.

Scott Mescudi, better known as rapper Kid Cudi, picks up his biggest role to date as Benny, Tobey's eyes in the sky and the film's comic relief. The eccentric recluse known only as Monarch (Michael Keaton) organizes and narrates the film's climactic De Leon race.

Paul is capable in the lead, but does little to distinguish himself from any other young actor who might have been cast in the role. It's tough to imagine the film being at all different with Chris Pine, Aaron Johnson, Taylor Kitsch (who apparently turned down the gig), or even a less recognizable, less experienced 20-30-year-old male playing Tobey.

Need for Speed grossed $43.6 million at the domestic box office, a pretty average haul for a mid-range, mid-March release. That performance is less impressive when you consider the film's $66 M budget and hearty marketing push. As they increasingly do, foreign markets contributed much to the bottom line, accounting for nearly 80% of the substantial $203 M worldwide take.
While the middling North American reception doesn't assert Paul as a marquee draw, the global figures are big enough to ensure for the foreseeable future that he can stick to the big screen, where he'll next be seen in a supporting role in Ridley Scott's Old Testament epic Exodus: Gods and Kings.

The domestic showing does cast further doubt over the future of DreamWorks Pictures. No longer affiliated with the similarly-named animation company that Fox now distributes, the live-action arm of the studio founded in the 1990s by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen has slowed its output to a trickle since entering a long-term distribution deal with Disney in 2009. Disney suddenly doesn't seem to need adult live-action output to complement their powerhouse stream of Marvel, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones films. And while the DreamWorks partnership has yielded some prestigious and successful releases like Lincoln and The Help, it's also produced a string of critical and commercial misses like Need, which came to home video this week in separate DVD and Blu-ray editions, the latter equipped with a downloadable Digital HD digital copy. Despite theatrical exhibition in 3D (achieved via post-production conversion), the film does not get a Blu-ray 3D release in North America, where Disney has cooled on the format.

Need for Speed: Blu-ray + Digital HD Digital Copy combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
7.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish),
Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Extras Subtitled
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap
Also available on DVD ($29.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video


Need for Speed aims to be a thrill ride and that much is apparent from the Blu-ray's high quality, high impact feature presentation. The 2.40:1 picture is expectedly sharp and spotless, plus remarkably vivid to boot. But it is the 7.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack that's far more likely to grab your attention. As aggressive as sound design gets, this is sure to give your home theater a workout. Glass will rattle from this loud mix that's driven by powerful engines and suitably excited score. Dialogue doesn't get lost in the shuffle, but it's not the element by which the film will be judged or used as valid demo material.

The filmmakers shunned CGI in favor of real cars, as shown in the making-of featurette "Capturing Speed: Making an Authentic Car Movie." "Ties That Bind" celebrates the Gilberts, a family of experienced stuntmen who worked on the film.


Need for Speed is treated to a fairly long list of bonus features, almost all of them exclusive to this Blu-ray, which presents them in HD.

"Capturing Speed: Making an Authentic Car Movie" (9:45) documents the film's creation with attention paid primarily to the fast real cars used in production and the stunts that tested them.

"Ties That Bind" (12:04) profiles the Gilberts, a family of stunt drivers who lent their talents and considerable experience to the film, and the Waughs, consisting of stuntman-turned-director Scott and the father who passed away shortly before filming.

"The Circus Is in Town" follows the production to southwestern Georgia and other American locales. The gang spends more time on the Bonneville Salt Flats in this deleted scene.

"The Circus Is in Town" (10:50) functions as kind of a travelogue conveying the nature of this nation-spanning shoot, with a mix of Waugh-narrated still photographs, computer-animated maps, and a bit of behind-the-scenes footage.

Next up comes an audio commentary by Aaron Paul and director Scott Waugh. Their discussion is full and impassioned. The two speak consistently with regards to what's on screen, revealing that much of it was influenced by Steve McQueen movies and that Waugh strove for realism and practicality wherever possible. With a little too much contentment,
they cover the usual bases like casting (from Waugh not knowing some lead actors to giving speaking parts to his stuntmen friends), filming locations, scheduling, homages, studio concerns, and changes made along the way. Aside from the rare display of humanity (as when Paul succumbs to the temptation of a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos), it's not an easy listen, especially if you're not crazy about the film. The film's long runtime even makes this a questionable use of fans' time.

"Monarch & Maverick Outtakes" (1:43) preserves a number of unused ad libs from Kid Cudi and Michael Keaton.

Four short deleted scenes (5:09) are individually introduced by director Waugh. They show the racers using playing cards to determine starting order, another moment at the salt flats, and an extended version of the end credits' prison twerking.

A sound guy uses a fluffy microphone to record a powerful car engine in "The Sound of 'Need for Speed.'" The Need for Speed Blu-ray menu plays clips among an assortment of dashboard graphics.

"The Sound of Need for Speed" (9:25) pays notice to the film's immersive sound design and reveals what into it. Also touching upon the score, this piece is technical but lends insight into the creation of the head-turning sound mix.

Finally, there is a trailer for Need for Speed: Rivals (1:25), the 20th and latest incarnation to EA's video game series. It also plays automatically at disc insertion, following a Guardians of the Galaxy trailer that is not accessible by menu.

An Easter egg (1:18), which I couldn't find from the menus,
has Waugh point out how one of his father's inventive car-mounted camera techniques was employed to safely capture crashes.

According to its rear cover, the DVD that's not included here (as Disney moves away from the popular combo pack format they introduced and helped standardize) only holds "Capturing Speed" and the Need for Speed: Rivals trailer.

The menu plays diagonal clips amidst graphics resembling a tricked-out car's dashboard. As usual, Disney doesn't author the Blu-ray to resume playback or let you set bookmarks. It does, however, remember where you were in the movie if you left it unfinished.

Disney forgoes a slipcover, adding only an insert with your Digital HD Digital Copy code to the plain blue disc in the side-snapped keepcase.

The rivalry of racers Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) and Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) is fraught with tension.


Like many, I hope Aaron Paul finds success, but his post-"Breaking Bad" big screen career gets off to a lackluster start in Need for Speed, an unintelligent and underwhelming racing movie that won't do much for anyone who isn't riveted by the sights and sounds of fast cars in motion.

The Blu-ray release delivers flawless picture, demo-worthy showy sound, and a decent assembly of extras. But none of that will mean much if you don't like the film a lot more than I do.

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Reviewed August 8, 2014.

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