ByBenjamin Marlatt, writer at

Struggling to make payments on his auto body shop Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul), along with his team of mechanics, reluctantly take on the job of custom building the arrogant Indy 500 racecar driver Dino Brewster’s (Dominic Cooper) new Ford Mustang (which this film is clearly brought to you by). At first, Tobey – given his past history with Dino – wants nothing to do with, but after Dino offers to give them 25% of what he hopes to be a $3 million sale on the car, Tobey gives in.

After the sale, things take a turn for the worse when Tobey and Dino are involved in a race that results in the death of one of Tobey’s friends. Tobey is wrongfully accused by Dino, which leads to him being sentenced to two years in prison. Once released, he vows to avenge his friend’s death the only way he knows how: racing.

Sure, we’ll go with that.

Need for Speed is based on the most successful racing video game franchise created by Electronic Arts. As a kid, I remember playing the PC version, but I’m not here to review my experiences with the game, I’m here to review the movie. John Campea from AMC Movie Talk described it best: “There are only three things certain in life – death, taxes and video game movies suck.” That said, we have a terrific lead actor with the potential for a successful film career and a former stuntman who knows how to handle action sequences right, so maybe the trend can be reversed.

Well, it isn’t.

Like the Fast & Furious franchise, we get dialogue that at times is unintentionally laughable, a storyline that even a toddler can predict the outcome of, and the most cardboard assembly of stock characters I’ve seen this year. But, we don’t go see movies like this for Mamet-esque dialogue and Coen brothers style storytelling. We wanna see cars, and we wanna see them race and crash and burn, etc.

We do get the car races and although it’s pretty much like watching someone else play the video game, they are one of the few strengths of this film. Give credit to those who deserve it, director Scott Waugh knows how to put together a car race. Unlike last year’s abomination Getaway, where the choppy editing, quick cuts and shaky-cam techniques were enough to give even the highest nausea-tolerating viewer a headache, Need for Speed is spectacularly shot and smoothly edited. However, when those cars aren’t breaking the speed limit in record numbers, this film is painfully slow, and by slow, I mean slowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

It’s kind of a bummer. Not that I was excitedly looking forward to this film, but I’m definitely rooting for Aaron Paul, aka Jesse Pinkman, to have a successful post-Breaking Bad film career. He’s already turned in solid supporting work next to Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the wonderful little indie film Smashed. Here, he does what he can. It’s not a bad performance by any means. Paul definitely has talent, but his character is so thinly written like the rest of them, there’s only so much he can do. Luckily, he’s got some more interesting projects coming up, particularly Ridley Scott’s Exodus later this year.

The supporting cast is the usual motley crew of wise-cracking sidekick characters we’ve seen a thousand times before in a million other films. Imogen Poots is her usual cute and likeable self with her big, Disney character-like doe-eyes, but she dabs her character with a tad bit too much sass than it needs. If there were an award for least interesting villain of the year, Dominic Cooper would be a lock so far. If his goal was to be as dull, lightweight and unintimidating as he could possibly be, then he does a fantastic job. Plus, I know it’s all about revenge against Dino for Tobey, but I couldn’t help but think if he finally gets access to the missing car that would finally implicate Dino in the car accident that took his friend’s life, why not just go to the cops? Why make the situation even worse than the one you’re already in – violating parole – by getting yourself involved in a highly illegal street race that will potentially endanger the lives of other unsuspecting drivers?

Oh, that’s right. Stupid me for trying to add some sort of logic to a movie like this.

Really, the only one who appears to be having any fun with this is Michael Keaton as the reclusive racing podcaster who broadcasts the race. His backstory of being a former racecar driver who had to give it up ’cause of heart problems is a bit whatever (the writers barely touch on that, if ever, so I guess they agree), and to be honest, he kinda seemed like an unnecessary character (much like Samuel L. Jackson in RoboCop earlier this year, also with Keaton). At least he kept me entertained. When doesn’t Keaton entertain, though?

This is a dumb and dopey film, and unlike Non-Stop a few weeks back, which was dumb and dopey yet fun, Need for Speed is a long and drawn-out bore. Aaron Paul gives a good enough performance to remind me he deserves much better than this, and as far as the technical merits of the film go, it is well-made and the racing scenes give the movie at least some sign of life. Overall, though, while not the worst I’ve seen this year, you could still say it earns a film fate much worse, one that I’ll forget about by the time this review is over.

I give Need for Speed a C- (★★).

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