Clearly fed-up with The Fast & Furious franchise having the monopoly over all things rev-head, Need For Speed is anxious to inject a bit of realism into the speed junkie genre. There’s no visible CGI boosted cars here, unlike Fast & Furious Need For Speed uses real vehicles travelling at impressive speeds. But does it burn rubber in the plot department or is it more over-the-top stupidity in the vein of that other car franchise?
Desperate to save his late father’s car shop, Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) enters into an ill-advised wager with hotshot racer Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper). One high-speed car wreck later and Tobey finds himself thrown in jail with Dino able to provide an alibi, placing him nowhere near the accident. Having served his time, Tobey convinces Julia (Imogen Poots) to loan him the car he helped build, in order to take on and beat Dino in the infamous De Leon race organised by car enthusiast Monarch (Michael Keaton). But revenge is rarely served ice-cold and Tobey must face all sorts of tight corners if he’s to put Dino in his place.
For his debut film former stunt coordinator turned director Scott Waugh delivered, the clearly inspired by Modern Warfare / Battlefield computer game franchises, Act Of Valor. Hollywood is never one to pass up an opportunity to cash in so he was always a logical choice in bringing one of video games most beloved franchises to the big screen in the shape of Need For Speed. Despite a script that barely passes as coherent Need For Speed just about delivers on the action stakes.
The crashes are big, loud and crunching and while the racing may not live up to French Connection levels of brilliance, they do at least give you a sense of real speed as opposed to the green-screen nonsense of Fast & Furious. It may be unfair to continually compare Need to Furious but Vin Diesel’s cars have so obviously influenced the design of Need that you wouldn’t put it past some Executive to try a crossover film. The Need For The Fast & Furious has worrying mash-up potential to it.
The problem is that like Fast & Furious, Need For Speed is utterly stupid. It plays out like the video games it’s based on; Level 1. Get A Fast Car. Level 2. Crash Fast Car. Level 3. Re-set, hit continue and start all over again.
But, like Furious, Need has a level of idiotic comradery that works in a film of this nature. The gang all play their roles even if you can’t remember any of their names. So you have mechanic guy, helicopter guy, transport guy and of course pretty girl who either knows a lot about cars but is afraid of them or is in actual fact an amazing driver, the script can’t quite decide. But at the heart of it all is Aaron Paul. Proving there is certainly life after Breaking Bad for the former Jesse Pinkman, Paul does the whole brooding, looking into the middle distance well but where Need For Speed works is in his likable cocky charm. It doesn’t hurt that he looks good behind the wheel of a car all bloodied up and gunning for a fight.
It wants to be American muscle, it wants to have enough torque to make your head spin but the reality is Need For Speed is more stock car racing than Formula One.