Well, I suppose if you’re going to adapt a racing game for the big screen then Need for Speed is probably the best one to do it with. After all, the series has been trying to weave in actual stories into their games for years now. Obviously, the movie disregards them and has come up with its own tale. NFS purists though needn’t worry though, it’s just as ridiculous as in the games.
It’s the old story of a person being framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Well, to be honest he sort of half committed it as he was a part of the race that saw his good buddy dead. However, it was Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) who caused the deadly collision and escaped while Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) took the fall. Skip to two years later and it’s a trip across the country as Tobey is paroled and left to get vengeance, with cops and other races hot on his tail.
If there’s one good thing that can be said about Need for Speed it’s that it feels pure. There’s no fancy CGI trickery (from what I can tell), these are real cars, real stunts and real crashes, much to the dismay of the pedestrians.
For those of you familiar with the first few Fast and the Furious movies, they were actually about street racing as opposed to the utterly mental, heist movies with cars that they became. Now, even though there were street races, the characters for the most part seemed to care about causing accidents with innocent pedestrians or other vehicles. They would cordon off the race track with traffic cones and the like, which doesn’t seem to be an issue for Need for Speed. Nope, Arron Paul and company don’t seem to care about anyone else and cause wanton damage and destruction all for that ultimate thrill. And that made me hate pretty much all the characters in this movie. Even Vin Diesel, who for all the intents and purposes was the villain in the first Fast movie, was a more likeable character than the lead protagonist in this movie. That’s a bit of a problem.
During one moment he intentionally instigates a car chase with a police officer just to show his mechanic buddy how his car veers to one side. Couldn’t you have just told the character this with words?
Aside from Aaron Paul, fresh from Breaking Bad success, the other most well-known actor is easily Michael Keaton. The creator of the underground street race that both our hero and villain are taking part in, he just exists to spout bits of exposition over the radio. If you add up all the screen time he has then it’s clear that it was probably shot over one weekend, all in the same set. Michael Keaton never leaving his radio studio for the entirety of the film, it does make you wonder how he was able to organise everything. Especially as it’s a little flimsy with the rules on how people are chosen for the race. That said, Keaton is hamming it up quite well in scenes. Not quite scene chewing quality, but it’s clear he’s making the most of a subpar script.
Need for Speed seems to be trying to fill that street racing gap that was left when Fast and the Furious moved on to bigger and better things, with the movie at times feeling like an advertisement for certain car manufacturers. Probably none more than the Ford Mustang which seems to be just as big a character as any of the human leads. It’s a good ambition, and sets it itself apart from the Fast series, but could’ve and should’ve been more exciting than this.
As I’ve seen a lot of these video game adaptations, they tend to fall into one of two categories. The so bad they’re kind of entertaining category, or the so bad they’re just really boring. Need for Speed is very much the latter. Some nice, real life stunts and a couple of spirited performances don’t help make this anymore watchable.