Need for Speed, 2014
Directed by Scott Waugh
Starring Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodreiguez, Harrison Gilbertson and Michael Keaton
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.
The Fast and Furious franchise has a certain level of appeal. They are utterly preposterous and very silly, but they have a charm and energy about them which makes them hard to criticise. It seems as though the filmmakers behind Need for Speed thought they could get away with the same thing. The only problem is that the film has all the charm of a dead slug and it’s paced about as well as one.
Based off the game series in name alone, Need for Speed sees Breaking Bad and Xbox One’s Aaron Paul framed for a car crash murder by a fellow racer named Dino (Dominic Cooper). Upon his release from prison, he goes on a cross-country hunt for a secret race in which he can clear his name and prove that Dino was the one who caused the crash. Along the way he is joined by his road crew and Julia, a car-enthusiast who has secured the modified Ford Mustang for them to race in. But when Dino finds out he is being hunted down, he sets off a group of hitmen to take them out.
The Need for Speed games are very simple – win some races, earn money, modify car, win more races. In order to flesh that out over an ungodly two hours, screenwriter George Gatnis has had to introduce a pretty standard-yet-somehow convoluted plot so that there is something in between the races. Sadly the plot written is garbage and pretty boring. The movie spends a good 40-minutes setting up Aaron Paul going to prison and yet the accident and his incarceration still feels emotionless. What’s even sadder is this is the more interesting part of the movie as all the stuff following him getting out and trying to find the secret race is rather dull.
None of this helped by dreadful performances from its leading cast members. The side characters of the road crew at least show some signs of charisma with Scott Mescudi really trying to add some fun to the bland proceedings, but they are let down by Paul and Poots. Aaron Paul has one level of acting in the entire movie: ambivalence. He looks like he would rather be anywhere else and this bottom-of-the-barrel garbage is below him. Dominic Cooper is in the same mode of not-caring as Paul, but Poots on the other hand looks to be putting some effort in. However, her robotic-like performance is a real hindrance her likeability. Credit to Michael Keaton, who was clearly hired for one day’s worth of filming, as he puts everything he has into his character-less character. He may be wasted, but dammit if he didn’t try.
But really all people are going to be looking for from this movie is the car chases. Like the Fast and Furious movies, this is the driving force (no pun intended) of Need for Speed and the reason people pay for tickets. And that would be fine if they were interesting. Director Scott Waugh manages to take car chases of people going upwards of 250mph and makes them look like they are doing 25 while out on a Sunday drive. The races are boring, they’re shot badly and they have zero excitement. This is the movie’s bread and butter and it gives us garbage. Not to mention that these racers put people’s lives in danger and cause multiple crashes – which look they kill people – and yet are supposed to be seen as the heroes of the movie.
Need for Speed relied on car chases to please its audience and it couldn’t even succeed in that. So what you’re left with is a boring and bloated waste of time that offers very little. The only modicum of entertainment to be clawed from this steaming pile is to laugh at how idiotic some of the stunts are in that ‘so bad it’s good’ mentality. If this was a low-budget straight-to-DVD release there might have been some forgiveness, but at $60 million it should be a lot better.
I feel the need, the need for Need for Speed to go away and never return.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★
Luke Owen is one of Flickering Myth’s co-editors and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.