Fast Films: Need For Speed vs. The Fast and the Furious Series

I grew up in Los Angeles, a city in which car culture is the name of the game. I am kind of a car guy. I love looking at cars and learning about them. I am also a movies guy, so when cars at the center of movies, naturally, I am drawn to them.  

Since The Fast and the Furious came out in 2001, the series has been about extraordinary cars and flashy speed racing. On March 14, a new film came out that is sure to have its share of sequels: Need for Speed. This Scott Waugh-directed blockbuster is destined for comparison to The Fast and the Furious series that we are all quite familiar with. Both of these stories offer similar surfaces—cars and street racing—but they share a deeper connection as well.

The first Fast and the Furious film took us to the streets of Los Angeles, where we met police officer Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker), an undercover cop, and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), a driver already involved in the underground street racing league. The first three films introduce us to all the main characters in the series, always keeping the story about street racing.  By the fourth film, we see all of these characters not just as street racers, but as a (crime) family. As they constantly run from the law while the stakes of their races climb higher, they become people the audience can rally behind and cheer for when they succeed, and feel sorry when they fail. 

By the fifth film, The Fast franchise is less about characters or street racing and more about drug lord takedowns. Fast Five (the best of the series, in my opinion), takes our familiar characters to the streets of Rio de Janeiro, where they attempt to take down the biggest drug lord they have met, all while being chased by the FBI. Fast and Furious 6, the newest film in the series, released last year, is essentially the same. The largest change: instead of Brazil, the story takes place in Europe. Most of the real the street racing, arguably the series’ best part, took place back in its beginning. I loved watching the street races, eyeing the customized cars, complete with high-tech, after-market accessories.

 Street racing remains the foundation and the bulk of the story in the new film, Need for Speed.  Aaron Paul stars as a street racer named Tobey Marshall from Mt. Kisco, New York, fresh out of prison.  He was framed for the death of his fellow mechanic and friend, Pete (Harrison Gilbertson). Pete was killed in a street race that also involved Tobey and a business associate named Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper). Tobey intends to get revenge for Pete’s death by entering the Deleon, a secret race. The location is known only to its invitees; Tobey knows Dino will be among them.  The winner goes home with all the cars involved in the race.  There are some sweet cars; their combined cost is near $8 million.  

While there are fewer women in this film than there are in the Fast and the Furious franchise, all the characters in this film echo the Fast family-like dynamic.  They enter the adventure as a singular unit, all rallying behind Tobey as he tries to avenge Pete’s death.  

I pay more attention to production cars because those are cars that you can actually find and buy without going to underground dealers.  While these cars that are used in Need for Speed are quite rare (in some instances, less than ten cars of a certain model exist in the entire world), they are still cars that if you look carefully for them and if you go to the right parts of town, can be found.  They can be more easily found if you go to your local auto show, depending on what city you live in.  You will find Bugattis, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and a whole lot of other cars that will make your jaw drop.  In The Fast and the Furious, the cars start out far less expensive than in Need for Speed, but are highly customized.  It is the contrary for Need for Speed.  

So if you are into cars and some good racing action, these movies are not to be missed.  Also, a plus for Need for Speed: the new 2014 Ford Mustang—the legendary car’s 50th anniversary model--is unveiled in the last scene of the film.

by Matthew Picus ‘15

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