Saturday, November 08, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Need for Speed (2014) *½

PG-13, 132 min.
Director: Scott Waugh
Writers: George Gatins, John Gatins
Starring: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez, Harrison Gilbertson, Dakota Johnson, Stevie Ray Dallimore, Michael Keaton

“Need for Speed” is a very well made bad movie. There is nothing in this movie to distinguish it from countless others about fast cars and explosions. This is “Fast & Furious” for the slick-as-shit set. What it doesn’t have are personalities for its characters, good motivations for its plot, or anything of interest beyond very expensive cars blowing up in slow motion. And, it actually has surprisingly little of that considering its long running time.

Perhaps the most disappointing element of “Need for Speed” is the use of Michael Keaton. He plays some Internet racing guru who organizes a secret elite street speed race that apparently does not inspire in him the morality questions of safety to its drivers and the public at large that it does in me. This is not why I was disappointed with Michael Keaton’s involvement, however. No, it is how this character is used in the structure of the story. He acts as a commentator on everything that happens from the first moment of the film to the last, not just his own race. He sits in front of a microphone an spouts off information and judgments, most of which have already been identified and made by the audience because of how obvious they all are.

Michael Keaton has been an undervalued actor throughout most of his career. He’s enjoying a bit of a resurgence of late after disappearing for a while. I’m sure he took this job for the money, and I’m also sure that he has bills to pay. I don’t fault him for being employed. I fault the director and his screenwriter for having such a talent in their presence and never using it. Keaton is a very energetic actor. He delivers his lines here like he’s bursting at the seams. His presence screams to be released from the restricted location and dialogue with which he’s saddled. I cannot wait to see Keaton’s big comeback role this fall in “Birdman”. This movie just made me anticipate that film more, for Keaton’s sake.

Note: This review was written before the release of “Birdman”. My review for that film will be posted later this week.

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