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Monday, September 01, 2014

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Susan Granger's review of 'Need for Speed'

Published 11:40 am, Saturday, March 22, 2014
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Based on the most successful racing video-game franchise, the gimmick of this new adrenaline-propelled action adventure is that there's no CGI.

Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul from "Breaking Bad") is a mechanic who races muscle cars on the unsanctioned street-racing circuit. Desperate to keep his family-owned garage afloat, he reluctantly partners with arrogant, wealthy ex-NASCAR driver Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper). Just after he's made a sale through car broker Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots), a disastrous race, in which Tobey's protege Pete (Harrison Gilbertson) is killed, allows sleazy Dino to frame Tobey for manslaughter. Dino then steals his high school sweetheart, Pete's sister Anita (Dakota Johnson), and expands the business.

Out of prison two years later, Tobey is determined to wreak revenge by defeating Dino in a secret, high-stakes, no-rules race known as the De Leon, run by online shock jock Monarch (Michael Keaton). Problem is: Tobey's in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., and the race starts 2,800 miles away in San Francisco in 45 hours. Driving a $2.7 million custom Ford Mustang -- "the one Carroll Shelby was building when he died" -- Tobey and Julia careen across America, dodging cops and determined mercenaries who want the massive bounty that Dino's put on his head. Helping along the way are Rami Malek, as a bug-eyed mechanic, and hip-hop star Scott Mescudi (a.k.a. Kid Cudi), as an Army Reserve pilot.

Incoherently scripted by George Gatins with numerous plot holes and cliched dialogue, it's choppily directed by Scott Waugh, whose father, legendary stuntman Fred Waugh, coordinated movie sequences for 40 years. Scott's own resume includes "Act of Valor," "Spider-Man," "Speed" and "Batman Forever." He was determined to keep the rubber-burning action real without resorting to CGI, so when you see that gravity-defying, 160-foot leap across multiple lanes in downtown Detroit traffic, "hot-fueling," aerial flips, helicopter lifts and other joyriding feats -- they're genuine.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Need for Speed" stalls out with a stilted, finish-line 4. The exhilarating, high-octane speed is authentic but the acting is abysmal.