Rated PG-13 for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language
Written by George Gatins and John Gatins
Directed by Scott Waugh
Starring Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez, Harrison Gilbertson, Dakota Johnson, Stevie Ray Dallimore, Michael Keaton
For maximum enjoyment, please fully power down your brain before stepping into the movie theater. You’ll thank me later.
“Need For Speed,” the new movie based on the well-known video game franchise, is in no way a high quality film. The plot is both ludicrous and cliched, the dramatic moments would all feel perfectly at home in a soap opera, and the entire first section is as limp and uninteresting as a deflated tire.
But when the story actually gets some speed on it, brake pedal abandoned along with any pretense of “reality,” the movie turns into a silly but surprisingly fun ride.
There’s ridiculous but cool stunts, a sweet little romance miraculously free of angst, some nice chase scenes, and all the crashes an action movie lover’s violent little heart could ask for. As long as you don’t let yourself think about the illogic too much, it holds together long enough to let you feel the wind in your hair.
The plot Р otherwise known as the excuse for all the car chases Р involves a not-so-accidental death, the frame-up of an innocent man for murder, and a “quest for justice” that somehow requires people to drive very fast.
The section where the movie plows through all this is desperately uninteresting, though you may occupy yourself for a few minutes figuring out who the “tragic” murder victim is going to be. (Hint: By the time the death happens, you’ll be grateful not to have to listen to this person talk anymore).
Then comes the dramatic driving, starting with a cross-country bounty hunt and only coming to the actual race at the very end. I’m not familiar with the games the movie is based on, but I do know that the car chases are at least as successful as those in the insanely popular “Fast and the Furious” franchise. In some ways they’re actually slightly more visceral, shot in such a way that the crashes have much more of an impact.
This isn’t the movie that’s going to prove that Aaron Paul has a career beyond “Breaking Bad,” but he loosens up once he’s made it through the big grieving scene and requisite jail time. After that’s out of the way, you can actually see some of the bad-boy charisma he’d tamped down flicker back to the surface, and his scenes with Imogen Poots have a nice, goofy banter to them.
Poots seems to deserve a lot of the credit for lightening up the movie as a whole, and though I wish she’d gotten more of a chance to drive she was fun behind the wheel.
The supporting cast is better, with Scott Mescudi (otherwise known as Kid Cudi to music fans) offering up an effortlessly charming turn as one of the race crew for this little illegal venture. Rami Malek, another member of the crew, has the best moment of the movie in a fantastic, funny “I quit” scene that should fuel the fantasies of wage slaves all across the country.
Michael Keaton also shows up as the host of an online show about illegal street racing, mostly to serve as information delivery and occasional plot device.
He’s clearly having fun, sounds like he’s doing his “Beetlejuice” voice half the time, and served as the perfect embodiment of the movie’s entertaining nonsense.