Aaron Paul wants to be known for more than just being that guy from Breaking Bad. Need for Speed is not the vehicle that will get him to that point.
Based on the popular video game from Electronic Arts, Need for Speed tells the tale of a street racer who is out for vengeance. The racer, Tobey Marshall (Paul), gets sent to prison after his buddy Little Pete (Harrison Gilbertson) dies during a race. Tobey knows there was a third racer on the scene responsible for Pete’s death, and that person was his enemy Dino (Dominic Cooper). Dino fled the scene, thus forcing Tobey to take the fall.
Once Tobey is fresh out of prison, he decides the best way to get even with Dino is by driving across the country to participate in some secret race called the De Leon, which is considered the Super Bowl of street races. Tobey pulls some stunts to get the invite from a kooky guy known as Monarch (Michael Keaton). To race, Tobey needs to get from New York to California in less than two days. He gets a fancy Ford Mustang and a sidekick/love interest Julia (Imogen Poots) and away they go. Dino puts a bounty on Tobey, hoping to take him out before he gets to Cali so he won’t make it to the De Leon.
I had trouble rooting for Tobey because I find street racing on public roads and highways a boneheaded (not to mention dangerous) thing to do. Oh, and it is also very illegal. So I can’t quite get behind a film that glorifies this activity. That’s probably why I’m not a big fan of the The Fast and the Furious flicks. Though I will say this film does show the dangers of racing, too, with the death. And there is a “do not try this at home” disclaimer before the ending credits.
With all that said, assuming racing is something that you’re interested in, Need for Speed will certainly hold your attention. Director Scott Waugh made sure the racing scenes were well done. There are lots of stunts (said to be filmed without CGI), and the action is sometimes pulse-racing. The cars are lovingly filmed. I screened the film in 3-D and I would suggest potential viewers save their money and see the film in 2-D. I didn’t think 3-D added anything extra to the movie.
When the action stops, the movie loses steam. A large part of the film is Tobey and Julia in the car together driving to California. And I just didn’t care much about them. The plot is formulaic and predictable. There are no standout performances and no memorable characters. I also didn’t think Aaron Paul was the right guy for the lead part. Filmmakers cast him “against type,” and it didn’t work for me. He doesn’t ooze enough “coolness,” and I think that is a needed quality for a role like this. Rapper Kid Cudi (he goes by his real name Scott Mescudi in the credits) offers some comic relief and does a decent job. And Dominic Cooper wasn’t enough of an evil villain to me.
When it comes to game versus movie, though I’ve never played it, I think sitting at home playing the video game would be a lot more fun rather than watching Need for Speed on the big screen. ••
Movie Grade: C