Did you know that we went all of 2013 without a theatrical release for a movie based on a video game? Couldn’t it just stay that way? It isn’t that Need for Speed is directly based on any of the games in the EA published franchise, but it still carries the same stigma. This could have been named Car Racers or Race Car-ers or something like that and it still would have been the same lifeless heap destined to be forgotten – or never even seen in the first place.
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) stars alongside Imogen Poots (That Awkward Moment) and Dominic Cooper (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) in what may as well be a directorial debut for Scott Waugh. The driving (heh) narrative behind NfS is one of revenge and retribution for Tobey Marshall, played by Paul, after he is framed by wealthy ex-professional race car driver Dino Brewster – he even has a cool villain name. The plot shoulders itself on the death of Marshall’s friend Pete as he goes to the big figure-eight in the sky during a race against Brewster. His death is subsequently pinned on Marshall who then gets sent to prison for two years because of it. After Marshall is released from prison he enlists the help of his old friends and Julia Maddon, and I must admit Poots charmed me in this role with her off beat nature and her great big blue eyes, to exact revenge on Mr. Brewster. They intend to enter an invite only secret race hosted by the Monarch, who is played by a maniacal Michael Keaton, and being that Dino Brewster won the last one he is sure to be at this one.
There really isn’t much going on here. It is pretty barebones from the outset, but the narrative is built around an emotional connection between Pete and Marshall that the audience never really sees. It is hard to get attached to a character that bites it so early and one that also fails to leave an impression during his limited on screen time. A shallow plot, I can deal with that, but what I can’t deal with is bloated runtimes. This film clocks in at 130 minutes. There is no reason that Need for Speed couldn’t have been 90 minutes like all of the other destined-to-fail-basically-B-movies. Even the action and racing scenes leave something to be desired as Waugh gives us too many rearview mirrors shots and more car squealing around a corner scenes than I care to count.
That is not to say it is all bad. Aaron Paul and Imogen Poots carry on an entertaining banter and the supporting cast meshes well enough to make a believable group of friends. Need for Speed also didn’t have a lick of smut in it. I find that commendable being that many movies today have needless sex scenes solely for the purpose of having one. It is also nice to see Aaron Paul trying to move away from his Breaking Bad fame, but it is not nice to see him drag himself down with projects like NfS.
Need for Speed doesn’t try to be much, and succeeds handily at that. There are some enjoyable scenes and some decent onscreen chemistry to be found in the rubble here and there, but not enough to make it watchable. Or I, at least, wouldn’t waste $11 to see it – although I already did. I am sure it will play ad infinitum on FX sooner rather than later.