Anyone expecting something extraordinary from Scott Waugh’s Need for Speed are kidding themselves – this is a trumped up B movie, but that is not necessarily all a bad thing. The computer game turned film is essentially a revenge movie padded out with lots of expensive, flashy looking cars, a dodgy script and lots of intense staring contests between lead characters. What you expect it to do, it does well, but the rest, well, the less said the better.
The film revolves around the bitter rivalry between street racers Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) and Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper). Marshall is a talented driver who has never been given a break in life, whilst his rival Brewster is the polar opposite: rich, arrogant and, despite his seemingly lesser talents, successful. Their hostility towards one another turns deadly when in a high-stakes street race, Tobey’s friend and prodigy, Little Pete (Harrison Gilbertson), is killed in a fiery wreck caused by Dino’s reckless driving. Without evidence to prove Brewster was involved in the incident, Marshall is convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to two years in jail. After his release he only has one thing on his mind: revenge.
Following in the footsteps of The Fast and the Furious franchise, Need for Speed delivers in the areas you expect, and hope, it does: the cars. They are nice to look at, they go fast, and at times, they crash, and in quite spectacular fashion. In that respect, it succeeds – action sequences are technically well done and generally make for an exciting spectacular. The rest, as in the script, is weak, uninspiring and predictable. The greatest example of this being the films love story subplot between Marshall and car saleswomen (well, effectively), Juilia Maddon (Imogen Poots). Maddon, a well spoken British woman, and Brewster, a vengeful working class American, go together like elephants on ice, and over a car journey where they rarely speak, appear to fall madly in love. Go figure, right?
Aaron Paul won many plaudits for his performances in the critically acclaimed Breaking Bad, but his move to big time film franchise leading man status has not got off to a great start – albeit he had little to work with, in a film he seemed to spend most of the time staring longingly into the distance behind the wheel of a car than participating in any actual meaningful pieces of dialogue.
If you just want to see fast cars do what they do best, as in, go fast, then Need for Speed satisfies those needs. It has an audience, and for what they want, it does reasonably well. Just watch out for all the drivel in between the brum brum cars and the revving engines.