"Need for Speed" Review: Craig's First Take

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Fresh from prison, a street racer who was framed by a wealthy business associate joins a cross country race with revenge in mind. His ex-partner, learning of the plan, places a massive bounty on his head as the race begins.
1.5

Jesse Pinkman is jumping over to speed now, and I don’t mean the drug. In a movie that makes “Fast and the Furious” look like “Hamlet” (the first couple at least), “Need for Speed” makes the always intense actor Aaron Paul into as much of an action star as “Transformers” made Shia LeBeouf one, which is to say not at all.

He plays Tobey, a New York mechanic heavily into the road racing scene who gets a 2 year prison stint after being wrongfully accused of vehicular homicide. Even he should admit, the sentence seems fairly lenient. His goal upon release is to get back at the guy who did it, Dino (Dominic Cooper), a former drag racer himself who hit the big time but still feels threatened by Tobey’s finesse behind the wheel.

Upon being released from prison, Tobey and Julia (Imogeen Poots), a car-smart businesswoman, drive cross-country behind the wheel of a souped-up Ford Mustang, obnoxiously creating disturbances so that cops will chase them (this is how they tell if the car handles well), but they’re also hoping to catch the eye of some eccentric billionaire called the Monarch (Michael Keaton) who must spend most of his time either sitting in a lighthouse doing a podcast or watching the news channels in the hopes he’ll see a car chase good enough to offer entry to the chasee into his road race, the De Leon.

Dino of course is in the race already and wants Tobey stopped because he’s a pussy and so he publically puts a bounty on Tobey through the Monarch’s radio show, yet for some reason we have to wait longer for it to finally be proven he’s a sociopath.

A character quitting his job by removing his clothes and walking out of the office stark naked aside, no one in this movie acts in any logical way and creating a plot that’s this slight and foreseeable, and then making it over 2 hours long as well, is ridiculous. Directed by Scott Waugh, the man who took real Navy Seals and asked them to non-act in the worst episode of “24” ever in “Act of Valor”, makes sure the movie lives up to the fast-car/slow brain mantra but some of this stuff is so over the top really all you can do is laugh at it.    

And when you watch all these pedestrian cars swerving off the road or getting smashed into so these jerk-offs can prove which one is a better driver, it didn’t make me want to root for it, it just made me angry. Yeah, it’s a movie based on a video game and I should probably take that into account (and I did, there are about as many decent jokes in this movie as you might find in “Call of Duty” and emotional high points are all done with exclamation points) but I’m guessing that playing the video game doesn’t take this long (an absurd 2 hours and 10 minutes), doesn’t ask you to think about how stupid it really is, and doesn’t make you wonder if the people in that very real-looking SUV that went off the road are injured or worse, dead.

Stars: 1.5 out of 5