The Need for Speed movie is both great and terrible. I saw a screening of the film in Boston last month and what the 130-minute action flick boils down is this: it is full of hits and misses. Let me explain why.
BAD: It Has A Throwaway Story
It's the cliched and overdone narrative of a man framed for a crime he did not commit who sets out on a cross-country adventure seeking vengeance. It does not get more formulaic than this. All the characters are completely one-dimensional and you'll cringe during a lot of the dialogue.
GOOD: The Action Is Fantastic
The movie has no CGI. None at all. Director Scott Waugh, who comes from an extensive stunt background (his father even played Spider-Man on the 1978 TV show The Amazing Spider-Man), said he did not want to lie to the audience using green screens, so he simply didn't. Everything you see in the movie--explosions, cars driving off cliffs, hairpin turns at breakneck speeds--actually happened in the real world. It's even more impressive when you consider Aaron Paul is behind the wheel for many of the scenes.
BAD: Michael Keaton Is Unused
He plays a wealthy and eccentric elite race organizer who never leaves his secret residence, communicating only through an advanced communications network. Seriously. He's featured in a handful of scenes in the movie (probably shot in one day) and he's always sitting in this one room. It's a real shame the very talented Keaton is so unused in the movie.
GOOD: It's Funny
There are some genuinely funny scenes in the movie, many of which come from Paul's group of car mechanic friends. Without giving too much away, the movie presents a hilarious way to quit your job in your underwear (thank you, Rami Malek) and Scott "Kid Cudi" Mescudi steals the show with his frequently hilarious one-liners. These scenes represent a bright spot for the film's writing and story, but they aren't enough to make up for its shortcomings.
BAD: Aaron Paul Doesn't Deliver
Simply put, his performance did nothing for me. Thematically speaking, the Need for Speed movie is similar to Breaking Bad in that Paul undergoes terrible loss and is out for vengeance. What he did so well in Breaking Bad does not translate to Need for Speed. His performance here comes across as forced and without spirit. I was definitely hoping for more from him. And it doesn't help that he sounds like Christian Bale's Batman in every scene.
GOOD: Car Lover's Dream
As you'd expect from a movie bearing the Need for Speed name, the film is stacked with supercars people like me and you can only dream about. I'm talking about Bugattis, Koenigseggs, Lamborghinis, and McLarens just to name a few. The movie even serves as the theatrical debut for the Ford Shelby GT500, which plays a pivotal role in the movie's story and manages to not come across as one long advertisement for the Detroit car maker. But it also goes deeper. The film is a throwback of sorts to classic car films, featuring homages to classic car movies like Vanishing Point and Bullitt, and it even recreates that epic last scene from Thelma & Louise. If you like fast cars, this movie has everything you need and then some.
I can only recommend you see the Need for Speed movie in theaters if your local movieplex has a $5 Tuesday offer or something similar. The racing/action scenes are no doubt better on the big-screen, but the ham-handed story and clumsy dialogue weighs the experience down too far for it to be a truly enjoyable movie.
The most recent entry in the Need for Speed video game series was 2013's Need for Speed: Rivals for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PC.
Need for Speed comes to theaters Friday, March 14. It stars Aaron Paul as the protagonist Tobey Marshall pitted against Domic Cooper, who plays the bad guy Dino Brewster. Supporting the two leads are Michael Keaton, Imogen Poots, Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez, Harrison Gilbertson, and Dakota Johnson.