2 1/2 StarsThe automobiles are exotic, but the characters are factory stock in this live action adaptation of EA’s long running video game series. Taking a molecule of an idea and stretching it into 130 minutes of tough guy posturing, racing, and mis-timed humor, proves just how graceful the never-ending Fast & Furious films are handled. Television actor Aaran Paul makes the leap from the small screen to studio franchise pictures, but the newbie remains better suited for the former. Paul resembles fellow (and better) actor Ben Foster, though his tendency to deliver his lines through a clenched jaw and looking up from a tilted head position are reminiscent of Clooney’s early onscreen bad habits.
Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is a savant behind the wheel of a racecar. Stowed away in the sleep town of Mt. Kisco, NY. Tobey and his crew of mechanical gear-heads assemble souped up performance vehicles for third-party buyers. Tobey’s former rival on the racing circuit, Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), comes back to town in an effort to hire the team for a restoration job on a Shelby Mustang. This leads to a street race that kills the youngest member of Marshall’s posse. Covering up his participation in the accident, Brewster walks away clean, but Tobey serves two years in prison for reckless endangerment.
The story then cuts to the present, Tobey is being released from prison and is dead set on racing in the mysterious Delone race. He figures Dino will also be a contestant and this will prove both his source of redemption and revenge. The rally consists of five racers and is secretly sponsored by an eccentric, wealthy podcaster known as, Monarch (Michael Keaton). This is Keaton’s second appearance in a empty-headed studio pic this year, with the forth-coming Birdman getting early critical praise lets hope he can re-instill his good name.
The direction from former stuntman Scott Waugh is adequate for the material, crashes are shown aplenty and cars zip around turns and blast down straightaways with abandon. The movie is aimed at the family crowd, there is hardly any profanity or sexual situations, perhaps that’s due to a total lack of chemistry between Paul and his female lead, the equally stiff, Imogen Poots.
Need for Speed owes as much to Smokey & the Bandit and The Cannon Ball Run, as it does to the previously mention F&F franchise. The character of Benny, played nicely by musician Kid Cudi, is a new-age stand-in for Jerry Reed’s role in the Bandit pictures. Instead of sitting behind the wheel of a big-rig waxing poetic over a CB radio, Benny is permanently perched in the sky above, navigating various types of planes and copters, while communicating with Toby through satellite radio. Gene Siskel once said, “logic only applies, when a movie is bad”. Need for Speed goes on for so long that my mind started to drift into logical waters. Doesn’t anyone ever get hungry or need to shower during a cross-country road-trip? I know such things aren’t necessary, but if the movie had been working better, I wouldn’t have had the time to ponder such petty grievances.
Director: Scott Waugh
Stars: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Michael Keaton