The Fast and the Frivolous
Need for Speed Blu-ray Review
Wafer-thin plot, one-dimensional characters, mindless car action and a seemingly never-ending 130-minute runtime leave this an obvious target for animosity.But if you leave your reservations (and expectations) at the door then this movie, which is – in essence – a combo- video game adaptation and rehash of one of the many Fast & Furious stories, may just win your interest with its impressively real stunts alone.
For me, the beginning was impossible to take seriously. I’ve heard Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul compared to Dec, from Ant & Dec, and so I spent the first act laughing at how seriously Dec was taking himself. It felt like the only reason Keaton agreed to participate was if he didn’t have to leave his spare room, and love interest Imogen Poots was channelling Kate Winslet crossed with Joanna Lumley, and making all British people sound like posh dolts. And nemesis Dominic Cooper looked even more out of place behind the wheel of a performance car than Dec.Then a strange thing happened, a couple of years passed and the characters suddenly became a little more likeable. Poots became more cute, a la Susan George (Straw Dogs), and Dec became a reasonable protagonist. The Smokey and the Bandit middle-act was easily the most interesting, as the duo crossed counties evading traffic, cops and bounty hunters, with all the requisite stunts thrown in to spice things up. And it was refreshing to see real stunts for a change, trouncing on anything CG has to offer.
The end product is still anorexic, not particularly stylish, with nothing really resembling a plot or acting in it – and somewhat overlong – but perhaps it needs the sheer length to dig itself out of an early sandpit and make up some time on the way to the finish line. I never once felt the need for speed, but, after I settled in for a ride, I also never felt the need to leave.
What is Need for Speed Blu-ray Picture QualityNeed for Speed looks suitably impressive in 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition, hitting UK Region B-locked Blu-ray over 2 weeks ahead of its US counterpart. Although not quite picture-perfect, it frequently comes pretty damn close, and will likely make for decent enough demo material, even if a large part of this is thanks to the spectacular performance cars on offer.
Detail remains strong throughout, allowing for some solid skin observations, clothing weaves and background textures, and offering a sharp look at the cars within, although not so sharp as to make it desperately easy to tell when they’re using mock-ups. Certainly the stunts look bone-crashingly real and, with almost no fast-cuts and shaky-cam, the presentation isn’t tricked in any way by the style of the piece, instead wearing its flaws on its sleeve which, thankfully, are minimal.
It’s hard not to be biased by the beautiful cars racing across the screen, but the video presentation is largely impressive in its own right.
Edge enhancement isn’t noticeable, and there’s no overt, excessive DNR application. Indeed, banding and blocking have been kept mostly off the radar too, with a sharpness, resolution and sheer pop (even in the original 2D version this looks impressive, and I doubt fake 3D would have improved it). The colour scheme is broad and vibrant, boasting the bright primaries of the racing cars, set against the clean glass-and-steel backdrop of the reflective city, the desert looking almost ‘Martian’ in terms of distinctive setting, and the green grass and trees providing a vibrant enshrouding for the grey asphalt. Black levels are strong, and overall this is a very good presentation indeed, as I say, oftentimes outright excellent, and probably more than enough to warrant a demo rating.
What is Need for Speed Blu-ray Sound QualityOn the aural front the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is almost as impressive, although a smidge of disappointment comes largely as a result of the expectation that it would be outright amazing. Boasting theoretically 900hp vehicles, these engines should have sounded awesome, the race scenes should have chewed up your living room and spat you out of the side window, but, more often than not, somebody turns the volume up too loud on the stereo and the score just invades the piece, preventing you from being at one with the cars.
I’m sure people who enjoyed the score will revel in it – and, don’t get me wrong, it strikes for those same faux-emotional notes long enough that, eventually, one or two of them actually hit home – but for at least the first act, it feels like the director of Act of Valo(u)r appears to have just ported over the exact same score they used for that, and it feels forced and fake and in your face.
If it weren’t for the occasionally invasive score, you’d be turning this puppy up to 11 and listening to it roar.
That aside, surround use is excellent, with the cars arriving and purring behind you, before leaving you in the dirt, tearing across your living room, and only making way for helicopters to beat a path over your rooftop. Beyond the car and engine-related noises, there really isn’t that much to consider, but the few smaller touches are handled reasonably well, with, conversely, the big impacts given, as already noted, a bone-crunching feel. Bass is brought in to define every single car engine, giving it that throaty edge, and overall this is a very good track. It’s probably even demo quality, if you can get past the score, but the disappointment isn’t from whether it scores an 8 or a 9, it’s from the fact that it should have delivered a perfect 10.
Need for Speed Blu-ray ExtrasOn the extras front there appear to be a whole bevy of offerings, but some of them feel quite lightweight. The Audio Commentary by Director Scott Waugh and Star, Aaron Paul, provides the meat for most people to gorge on and, although expectedly enthusiastic, it is an enjoyable track. A slew of Featurettes include the main Documentary, Capturing Speed: Making an Authentic Car Movie, as well as Ties That Bind and The Circus is in Town. We get some Monarch & Maverick Outtakes and some unfinished Deleted Scenes. There’s also a Trailer for the game Need for Speed: Rivals and several Previews on disc startup.
Is Need for Speed Blu-ray Worth BuyingOnce you get past the silly set-up and overlong build-up, the combination of Smokey and the Bandit-style across-the-country evasion – racing-to-the-race – and then The Fast and The Furious-style bookend races, leave this an engaging enough car-centric romp. It may be based on a videogame franchise, and the later Fast & Furious sequels may have shown what we have grown to expect from car-centric movies these days (i.e. a great deal more!) but the largely harmless plot and grow-on-you characters, coupled with the mostly impressive non-CG stuntwork, leave it an enjoyable watch.
The Fast and The Furious-lite.
On Region B-locked UK Blu-ray we get excellent video and almost-excellent audio, perhaps let down slightly by the bias towards score over engine power! The selection of extra features will seal what should be an easy blind buy for fans of the film and certainly a solid rental for those who like these kinds of movies. Don’t expect much, don’t give up after the first half-hour (it’s a long movie), and you’ll likely be rewarded.
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