One of the more curious movie ideas to me, is the increasingly common conversion of video games to film. It rarely works out, but studios seem to keep giving them the green light. From ‘Super Mario Brothers’ to ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’, ‘Prince of Persia’ to ‘Hitman’, there have been a hell of a lot of misses when ambitious, fan-boy producers give such a gimmick a try. To give credit where credit’s due however, I do regard the ‘Mortal Kombat’ movie from 1995 as an awesome exception to this. There’s just something about a script being written into a universe with existing, inelastic parameters that always seems to stifle the creative interpretation of even the most riveting video games. Therefore, going into Scott Waugh’s second directorial attempt, ‘Need for Speed’, I was most certainly hoping for the best but prepared for the worst. What I witnessed was not so much ‘Breaking Bad: What Jesse Did Next’ but more another poorly written sequel to ‘The Fast & The Furious’.
Aaron Paul takes on his first, big-screen lead role, on the back of his incredible success in ‘Breaking Bad’, as mechanic Tobey Marshall. Thankfully, the only addiction his character suffers from in this case, is an insatiable thirst for street-racing, a junkie of the adrenaline variety. Paul certainly made a shrewd decision, taking on a fairly safe role, where all that’s asked of him is to drive flashy cars and look cool in the process. Joining him once again as love interest Julia, is his co-star from ‘A Long Way Down’, the divine Imogen Poots. Her chemistry opposite Paul is magnificent, with lots of sexy, piercing stares. As the villain of the plot, Dominic Cooper plays Tobey’s rival, Dino Brewster. This rivalry between Tobey and Dino feels genuinely tense, in the classic ‘rich, devious bully vs. the kid with good intentions’ archetype, owing much to the authentic performance of Paul and Cooper. Also deserving of a mention, is the eccentric rapper-turned-actor, Scott Mescudi (AKA Kid Cudi), who delivers a number of witty one-liners as Brewster’s partner in crime, Benny.
As the pair do battle on numerous occasions, you can sense a building vitriol, which culminates in Dino Brewster crashing into Tobey’s protégé Pete, sending Pete’s car off a bridge and the youngster heading to a fiery death. The racing scenes are the real triumph for this movie, especially the final “De Leon” high-stakes road race, in which six extravagant sports cars fly down the California coastline. There’s nothing more enthralling than stunning cars going dangerously fast, but sadly that’s pretty much the only enthralling aspect of ‘Need For Speed’. A predictable ending sees the racers speeding around the track, evading police traps at every turn, until only the winner, our hero Tobey, remains. Having won the race, helping to incriminate Dino in the process, Tobey drives away over the horizon with Julia, to live happily ever after. How lovely.
From playing the multiple variations of the ‘Need For Speed’ video game growing up, I couldn’t help but compare the movie to the repetitive missions in the games, where you have one race to win, police in tow, and cars going really, really fast. If you watch this film solely for the high-speed car races and chases, then you won’t be disappointed. The visual effects are undeniably spectacular and the tense race scenes certainly compensate for the grossly thin plot. Overall, it’s worth seeing just for the flashy cars, going a few MPH over the speed limit. But don’t expect much more than that.
DIRECTOR: SCOTT WAUGH
STARRING: AARON PAUL, DOMINIC COOPER, IMOGEN POOTS