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‘Need for Speed’

By Titus Falodun Staff Writer | 3/7/2014, noon
Paying exhilarating homages to film classics, such as “Bullitt,” “The French Connection,” “Vanishing Point,” “Blues Brothers,” and even “Thelma and Louise,” Waugh’s “Need for Speed” leaves an intoxicating nostalgic fume every tire-screeching turn…without CGI.

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"Need for Speed," starring Aaron Paul.

In making a slick, full throttle car-racing blockbuster, you need high-octane motor oil, a lot of adrenaline, and some really fast cars.

Did I also mention a bevy of flying aircrafts? I’ll get to that later.

Electronic Arts’ prized racing videogame franchise “Need for Speed” is now a big screen action thriller, directed by Scott Waugh (“Act of Valor”), and starring “Breaking Bad” alum Aaron Paul and actor/rapper Scott Mescudi (Kid Cudi), who helped kick the movie’s media blitz into high gear with their interviews recently at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce headquarters.

Filmed mostly in Georgia, “Need for Speed,” which opens Friday, March 14, follows the soft-spoken, American muscle driver Tobey Marshall (played by Paul) and his misfit crew of mechanics seeking to exact revenge for a fallen comrade, while winning the most renowned underground streetcar racing event.

“The first race of the film was filmed in Macon (Ga.),” Paul told reporters. “We all just kind of fell in love with that small town vibe…loved the jazz and blues there.”

The opening racing sequence of the movie features protagonist Marshall and crew in the nighttime backdrop of rural Macon, as classic cars fill the screen, racing through the eerily barren streets.

“We just took over that town,” Paul added. “We just left as many skid marks as we could.”

Easily and naively pegged as a carbon copy of the perennial box office juggernaut “Fast and Furious,” “Need for Speed,” the videogame, was created in 1994, and has since been published in 22 languages in 60 countries, selling more than 150 million units, with $4 billion in sales.

Simply put, this videogame adaptation has an origin of its own, as stuntman-turned-director Scott Waugh hopes to transform it into box office gold.

“We spent as much time casting the cars as we did the people,” Waugh said. “As a kid, when I grew up, we are defined by the cars that we drive, especially in high school.”

What did Waugh drive as a teen?

“I wasn’t that cool,” he said. “I drove a Honda Civic, which defined me very well.”

Paying homages to film classics, such as “Bullitt,” “The French Connection,” “Vanishing Point,” “Blues Brothers,” and even “Thelma and Louise,” Waugh’s “Need for Speed” leaves an intoxicating nostalgic fume every tire-screeching turn.

There’s a high-speed chase midway through the movie that shows a specialized Ford Mustang leap-frogging over four lanes of traffic. And there’s also the intense high-speed fueling of gas, without pulling over. All that and more make “Need for Speed” its own bit of fun.

But it’s Mescudi (from HBO’s short-lived series “How to Make it in America”), playing Benny (Marshall’s aeronautically-inclined friend), who takes this movie to another level.

“When I first casted him, I had no idea who he was,” Waugh said about Mescudi, whose character is a reimagined Murdock from the vintage TV show the “A-Team.” “I casted him on his acting talent. I think Scott liked that, too.”

That’s not the only thing the Cleveland-native liked.