The story for the film was actually better then I thought it would be. Aaron Paul plays Toby Marshall, a kid who can drive very well. There was a line in the beginning about how he has so much talent, but can't get a car good enough to keep up with him. He runs a auto shop that was once owned by his father, who is also the one that taught him to drive. The shop is not doing well, so when his old rival Dino Brewster shows up offering him 500K plus, he is forced to take the job. The idea is that Carroll Shelby was designing one last car before he died and Dino got his hands on it. Toby and his shop take in 25% of the profit if they can finish building it. Car gets finished, money is made, and tempers flair back up. Dino is a pro race driver, and Toby is not. However Dino is told Toby is better, and of course challenges him to a race. The car ended up selling for 3 million, so winner takes the entire pot. Something happens and Dino ends up running off while leaving Toby behind. Toby takes the fall and does a few years in prison before getting out. The movie is about Toby challenging Dino to one big race and beating him. The race is across the country and Toby has to break parole to get there. He goes knowing the ending is him going to back prison, but it is worth it to him. There is a line near the end about spending a few more months in jail, being worth it to prove your innocence in the end. That is the entire theme of the movie.
Toby is given 44 hours to get from New York to California. He is given the Shelby car he completed in order to do it in. The race is a illegal street race where the winner gets all the cars involved. When each entrant is over the Million dollar mark, that is a lot of money to be made. The new owner of the Shelby is sponsoring him, so he would get all the money. Toby is solely in it for revenge, which I felt helped further his character. He has nothing to gain from this, at least nothing physical. The car is a Custom 2013 Shelby GT500. It has 900 Horsepower, top speed just over 230mph. As far as cars go, it was a good choice for the main one in the film. It has a iconic enough look to be recognized by most people. The made up stats for it sound good enough on paper to be able to accomplish what it needs to. But not good enough to make it not a underdog story. It will be going up against cars with much higher Top speeds, and much more power. The final race has a car who goes almost 270 and is on a road with many straights. However the main rival is in a Lambo that only goes about 190, and you know they will be the final two. The cars are all great, and fun to look at. But the balance of them is just off. When your big scene is a race with 2 cars that go 270, and they are being beaten by one that doesn't even break 200....well it does make you shake your head a little. Granted I am sure the Lambo had a lot of work done on it, I just wish they put more time into telling us that. One thing I like about the Fast and the Furious movies, they would always toss in a line about modifications to make you go "oh I guess maybe that car could do that then".
Aaron Paul mentioned in a interview that they were staying away from CGI. Everything was done with practical effects. If a car looks like it was destroyed, well then they really trashed a multi million dollar vehicle. That makes some of the scenes both much better, and much harder to watch. Everything looks good, and the lack of CGI really helped out. But I do wonder how much damage was done to those poor cars. I know they used small scale models, so hopefully not much. Still though, practical effects will always be the better option in movies like this. I was glad to see them go that route. If you don't believe me, look at the Hobbit films. CGI detracts from those far to much, making them a pale comparison to the much older Lord of the Rings films. I applaud them for not taking the easy way out on this one.
Now comes the hard part, how much did I like this film? I have to compare it to Fast and the Furious, there is just no way not to. I would say Fast is a better offering, but I would say Need for Speed was better then Tokyo Drift, and the 2nd Fast movie. There was a lot to like here, but also a lot not to. The main villain just never worked for me. He was easy to dislike, but the acting just brought down any scene involving him. I did enjoy the idea that Toby was on borrowed time though. Once he was finished, he was going back to prison. That really helped me like his character more, it seemed to make his convictions stronger. Actually seeing the entire Crew rally around that cause made the movie worth watching to me. I had a lot of fun with it. No it is not a instant classic, but I was entertained and got to see some cool moments.