It’s a tough for TV stars to make the transition into movie stars. In the handful of people whom have been able to do it (like a George Clooney) there are countless others who failed (like most of the cast of “Friends”). Hot off the success of “Breaking Bad”, many have wondered (or at least I have) if stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul can break free of the show and go on to have successful careers. Cranston already had notable roles in “Argo” and “Total Recall” and later “Godzilla”. Cranston is well on his way to a tremendous career (if he already doesn’t have it). Aaron Paul is now the headlining star of “Need for Speed”. A movie that made my Top 20 Most Anticipated Films of 2014 list but (like “Noah”) I missed when it was in theaters. That doesn’t mean that’ll stop me from reviewing the film now! “Need for Speed” benefits from a strong lead in Aaron Paul and some excellent and gut wrenching action sequences that keep you entertained while watching but a weak script with some questionable acting and some more than dumb moments keep the film as a whole from succeeding. “Need for Speed” separates itself from the “Fast and Furious” franchise and is better than a few of the entries in that series but it does not leave me craving to revisit the film or continue in a sequel.
“Need for Speed” follows a young street racer who is looking to clear his name and take revenge for the death of his friend. To do this he treks on a cross country journey to get to the biggest underground street race where he will need the help of his crew and friends to contend with the law and the bounty on his head.
Let’s face many who come into watching “Need for Speed” isn’t really looking for a good story. People want to see good looking cars, in some awesome car chases. Anyone expecting more will be disappointed right from the start. The best thing for a film like this to do is come up with a good solid storyline that serves the action (which is normally the wrong way to go). “Fast and Furious” figured that out and embraced it lunacy and became fun. “Need for Speed” isn’t sure what it wants to be. Some moments it seems to be nothing but a brainless exercise while others, the movie begs to be taken seriously. It creates a more uneven experience and makes it harder to overlook the holes and flaws in the story. Plus the beyond dumb moments in the film don’t help it either. Like telling someone they need them to adjust the car for them and never do, little things like that will add up.
Around the middle act “Need for Speed” seems to abandon any legitimate ideas for a story and goes into auto pilot. All that drives anything in the movie is the loosely connected action sequences. It begins to feel like you’re watching someone else play the video game. Except it’s more fun to play the video game.
Where the film excels is it’s action. Scott Waugh is a former stunt man and was one of the two directors from “Act of Valor”. The scenes are very well done with real stunt work and very little VFX used in the actual final product. I applaud the director for shooting old school, and it gives the chase scenes authenticity. Yet, like “Act of Valor”, eventually the scenes of mayhem and action get repetitive and lose the excitement. That doesn’t take away from how well shot they are but after the film’s overlong length (of 132 Minutes) it becomes boring.
The acting isn’t all that great either. Aaron Paul is clearly the best of the bunch. Paul shows some acting range, never once did I believe he was channeling Jessie Pinkman from “Breaking Bad” but instead a whole separate character entirely. Starring next to Aaron Paul, is Dominic Cooper as the mustache twirling villain, he’s pretty one note and non memorable. Imogen Poots is mostly over the top if not sometimes likeable as Julia Maddon, Aaron Paul’s traveling companion. Michael Keaton seems to enjoy chewing up the scenery as a podcaster in charge of the big climatic race. Everyone else is a stock set of crew members that try to crack jokes that never deliver and aren’t memorable or very good.
Yet another video game adaptation has been brought to us and another one has failed to quite might the cut. It’s about as well done as some of the earlier “Fast and Furious” movies (which had better characters and better later installments) but nothing here is worth revisiting or extending with a sequel. Not the proper vehicle for Aaron Paul to break out from “Breaking Bad” perhaps “Exodus: Gods and Kings” will fare better for him in a supporting role