When it comes to movies that have cars as a main element, there is a specific rule that needs to be followed: Have fun with it! There is a reason that “Smokey & The Bandit” and the 6 “Fast & Furious” movies are so beloved, and it’s not because of thespian acting or provocative dialogue. All viewers have to do is check their brains with their coats at the door, sit back, and expect the laws of physics and gravity to be broken with ease. Even a movie like “Bullitt,” with a dead-serious Steve McQueen on a hunt for justice, is famous for a car chase that dropped the jaws of young male baby boomers. Car movies are supposed to be fun, stupid, and aware of how fun and stupid they can be. Unfortunately, fun and stupid is not the first 2 adjectives that come to mind when one thinks of Jesse from TV’s “Breaking Bad.”
The man behind Jesse, Aaron Paul, plays mechanic/street racer/smolder-faced Tobey Marshall. Tobey’s garage is behind on mortgage payments on his family’s garage, so he takes a job ramping up a Ford Mustang from a former friend, Dino (Dominic Cooper). Dino sells the car to a businessman and his snappy British daughter, Julia (Imogen Poots) and offers to settle Tobey’s money problems in a race with him and Dino’s brother-in-law, Pete (Harrison Gilbertson). Dino runs Pete off the road at nearly 200 mph and kills him, but Dino pegs the death on Tobey, who gets thrown in jail. When he is released after some time, Tobey reassembles his old crew (including rapper Kid Cudi as his airborne traffic monitor) to find Dino and get revenge. He plans to drive to California in the Mustang he restored and enter an illegal race Dino has entered to win cars. Julia accompanies him, making sure the car stays intact, as he speeds cross-country to avenge the death of his friend.
Now the term “speeds” is not entirely accurate when describing this movie. At 130 minutes, this movie drags, skids, sputters, and any other slow car pun that comes to mind. The plot is a typical “I WILL AVENGE YOU” action movie, though with decidedly less action than normal. For a movie based off of a racing videogame that involved crashing and cop car chases, only 1/3rd of the movie has car chases. Further more, the chases are not the least bit exciting or fun. The cars used are certainly nice to look at, but there are no real exciting collisions or races in this movie. There are shots of crashes, but only from the view of the pedestrian cars that get sideswiped (because when one sees a car movie, he’d rather watch a Toyota Tundra get totaled more than a Bugatti speed off, right?). Former stunt coordinator turned director Scott Waugh (“Act of Valor”) wants the audience to take “Need for Speed” way too seriously and takes all the fun out of the movie.
The acting is also a huge disappointment. There’s no doubt Aaron Paul is a good actor, but playing such a dark role on “Breaking Bad” has left a big impression on him. Paul has no charm or charisma and instead just keeps a grim stare throughout the entire film. Ms. Poots is a beautiful woman, but an annoying presence on screen. Her only purpose is to be the worrisome, semi-witty, British eye candy for male viewers to swoon over. The auto-crew of Tobey is meant to be the comic relief, but never show anything beyond general blandness, except for Kid Cudi, who is basically in this movie because the budget couldn’t afford Jamie Foxx. Dominic Cooper is terribly misused as the bland, boring villain who’s got nothing on Cooper’s epic portrayal of Uday Hussein in “The Devil’s Double,” which is way more fun and crazy than this boring piece of car porn. Not even the presence of a super hammy Michael Keaton as the host of the ending race can save the film.
It’s unsure if this can be called another poor movie based off of a videogame or just a cheap “Fast & Furious” rip-off, but it is most definitely a bad movie. “Need for Speed” is supposed to be fast, fun, dumb, and painless: Instead, it’s slow, boring, numbing and painful. There was a lot of potential with such a hot young cast and some hot cars merged together, but audiences want destructive races instead of empty spaces of dialogue and grimaces. So with that said….can we get a “Burnout” movie please?
Final Verdict: 1 out of 4 stars