Need For Speed12 ¦ Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD
If you're a console gamer, then there's little chance that EA's Need for Speed has passed you by. It began in 1994 and since then has had over twenty instalments. As driving games go, they've hardly posed any kind of cerebral challenge, and clearly this film based on the series is staying true to its roots.
Living in the quiet town of Mount Kisco, New York is Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul). Marshall looks after the local garage which his late father used to run. He is not only good at putting cars together, along with his dedicated team, but he's also pretty hot stuff behind a wheel. Which is just as well as the garage isn't making that much money, so he has to take part in illegal street races to make ends meet.
A former driving rival of his, Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), returns to town and is impressed by the skills that Marshall and his chums have for bringing cars back to life. He has a rare Ford Shelby Mustang that's in dire need of a makeover. Although loath to have anything to do with Brewster, Marshall accepts as he's running out of cash.
Although the team look like making a decent wedge for doing a swell job with the Mustang, egos sadly get in the way, with Brewster mouthing off that he's actually the better racer out of the two of them. What better way to prove it than a race. Marshall agrees.
The race doesn't quite go to plan; a tragic accident occurs for which Marshall is blamed and he gets two year behind bars for his trouble.
On release, the only thing Marshall has on his mind is revenge. He manages to get hold of the Mustang once more on the proviso that English Julia (Imogen Poots), who brokered the deal for the Mustang in the first place, goes with him. Their destination is California, where a notoriously exclusive illegal street race is to take place. But to get there in time, they have to drive for forty-five hours straight, cross country. On top of that, there's a bounty on their heads to stop them at any cost.
With video games continuing to be such a big deal culturally – so much so that the industry now makes more money than the US film industry does – it's no surprise that Hollywood wants a slice of that particular joypad pie. But saying this film is based on the game of the same name is like saying that the recent World Cup final in Brazil was based on FIFA 14: sure, they share the same subject matter, but that's about it.
This film has been pretty much built from the ground up – not that there was much building needed.
After his turn starring in the critically acclaimed US TV series Breaking Bad as drug-making Jesse Pinkman, it's understandable that Paul would want something less demanding to play. Need for Speed then was the perfect, erm, vehicle.
Considering this is only his second directing gig (the first being the painfully patriotic Act of Valour), Scott Waugh came at this project from a good direction. For instance, the majority of the stunts are shot in camera, keeping computer generated stuff to a minimum, which should be applauded.
But in terms of what it delivers, it's certainly no game changer. Although it's fair to say that it produces a sufficient feel of speed, it holds back on the thrills. To this end, it's difficult to distinguish it from the mind-numbingly dull Fast and Furious franchise.
It could also be accused of possibly trying too hard in the story department, which is ironic considering it's all about driving. It gets a little unnecessarily convoluted, acting as speed bumps that slow the pace down.
Cooper does well as the bad guy, and just in case you don't know he's the bad guy, he dresses in black all the way through as a constant reminder.
Paul also looks to give a little too much of himself to his character; he talks quite low throughout, and usually with a frown on his face, as if he were auditioning to be the next Batman.
Brit Poots doesn't put a foot wrong, with a strong performance that is about as effortlessly bright and breezy as it gets. It's a pretty impressive calling card for Hollywood casting agents, that's for sure.
As an example of what it is – which is a trashy, lightweight effort that will appease speed junkies – Need for Speed goes through all the right gears. Let's not forget though that there was a time when a little bit more thought went into this type of film, with the likes of Bullitt and Driver; these films had more grit and substance about them, which is sadly missing from today's vroom vroomers.
Perhaps its sequel – surely a given – could feature cars with a history in film; put Aaron in the driving seat of Herbie for instance, and you've got yourself a car flick we'd happily sit through.