When I first heard about Need for Speed and the involvement with Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul, I was ultimately excited. From seeing his character development in the show and his acting ability grow within the five seasons, I was interested to see his take as an action star. Walking into the theater, there was a huge line wrapped around the building with Aaron Paul fans yelling Jessie Pinkman one-liners and eating crystal blue candy in small bags, and I thought “what am I walking into?”
I think introducing video game concepts onto the big screen is always a gamble from a visual and cinematography standpoint, but I thought the director Scott Waugh (Act of Valor) accomplished a few things right with this film. As the opening credits rolled, we are introduced to Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) and his whimsical team of mechanic misfits that are in debt from opening their own mechanic shop in a small town in New York. Tobey and his garage crews small town reputation for fast cars, races, and quality auto work in the shop pay off when the 1980’s typical arch nemesis shows up back in the town to talk business. The Indy Racing Pro Dino (Dominic Cooper from Captain America: The First Avenger) shows up with an offer they can’t refuse and leads too many awkward up close camera shots that are lavished and unnecessary. After a redundant stare down session between Tobey and Dino for a few minutes, they agree to take it to the road once and for all. Tobey and friend take on Dino in an all-out road grudge match that rips through the streets of New York, leaving one of the drivers for death, and demolishing a sports car that costs more than half of the crews salaries. As you can imagine, this creates an even more heated rivalry (I KNOW) and puts Tobey over the edge. At this point, there were too many clichés and predictable transitions that left me waiting for the “Real” action to take place. A few years pass and we are back to square one with a new initiative, to break parole and drive across the country. The astute and British leading female, Julia (Imogen Poots), catches Tobey’s eye and reveals a plot twist (She knows all about cars and had a suped up Mustang, shocker). My favorite character of the whole movie is a caffeinated; racing connoisseur named Monarch played by Michael Keaton (Batman/Beetlejuice). Monarch uses cut throat web conferencing (can you sense my sarcasm) to invite Tobey and his crew to a secret race in California called the “De Leon.” As they get the shop crew back together and head to Northern California to race the “hush hush” secret race, this leads to many off-road run ins with local authorities, in-town civilian close calls, and building carnage left in the dust. With the help from Helicopter operator and quirky comedian, Benny (Kid Cudi), they are lead into safe passage.
This leads to the Fast & Furious-esque, over the top action sequences that involved “inside” the car video game visuals with a bone crushing after effect. This was one of the key elements that I thought Need for Speed had done right where other action flicks have not. But, there was one specific shot that involves an army helicopter carrying a car over a canyon that screamed “Fast & Furious part whatever”, but it didn’t make me stop watching, especially in 3D. As all this time passes, their car has gone through hell and back from New York to California, and of course there were no plans for a backup car if anything catastrophic should happen. Wait for it……the car gets demolished and Tobey is rendered powerless with no automobile for the De Leon. Tobey calls in an old friend and finds himself behind the wheel of a car that was used two years prior in his friend’s death…..how anti-climactic.
As the final racing scene takes place, mind you, it lasts 15-20 minutes, and the time building up to the climax of the movie was an hour and forty-five minutes, most of the audience was yawning and slowly pealing out of the theater. Thanks to Monarch, the local police force catches onto the illegal race (maybe it was the broadcasting to everyone over the internet) and try to capture the drivers before anyone else dies along the way. It all comes down to the final stretch and as you could guess it, one driver comes out on top.
Aaron Paul was surprisingly not as obnoxious as I thought he would be, but needs to prove more to me in future film endeavors, and to steer away from the Crystal meth role he will get tied to for a long time. I was hoping for a “yeah bitch” for old time’s sake, but with the role, Paul seemed too concentrated on little to no dialogue. That threw off the audience and I was not completely sold on him being in a lead role, especially in the action genre. However, I think he is capable of much more in the future if he chooses the right role. The supporting cast was entertaining and had many comparable moments to American Pie meets a campy 80’s B movie. Overall, the action sequences, camera angles from inside of the car to the external shots, to demolishing million dollar cars, this was an enjoyable and amusing film to check out in 3D. No, I don’t see the picture racking up any Oscars next year, but from an action standpoint, and overall concept, it was a fun two hours. It was drawn out about 30 minutes too long and doesn’t hold up to the video games, but is a pleasurable concept that doesn’t take heavy concentration and focus to get the plot.
Kudos to Mr. Paul for breaking out of his “comfort zone” and trying something different, and I look forward to his future movies.
Rated PG-13 for: Violence and intense action.
Run time: 2 hours and 10 minutes.
After Credits Scene: None
Starring: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Scott Mescudi, and Imogen Poots.
Director: Scott Waugh
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 2.5 / Acting: 2.5 / Directing: 2 / Visuals: 3.5
OVERALL: 3 out of 5 Nerdskulls