I have some good news and I have some bad news.
The good news is that Aaron Paul's popular and acclaimed stint on Breaking Bad is no fluke. The guy can act.
The bad news?
In Need for Speed, his first cinematic effort post-Breaking Bad, acting isn't so much required as is simply an ability to brood, growl, and periodically pose like the fast car stud he is intended to be as Tobey Marshall, a muscle car mechanic and street racer who is framed for a crime he didn't commit and whose two years in the lock-up only serve to fuel an overwhelming desire for revenge against Dino (Dominic Cooper), a richer and more successful racer responsible for the frame-up that cost his best friend's life (Harrison Gilbertson) and also responsible for having stolen his girlfriend (Dakota Johnson) years before that.
It doesn't really matter.
Need for Speed, inspired by an Electronic Arts video game series that kicked off way back in the early 90's, is really just an excuse for fast cars to go fast and for the guys who like the fast cars to drive them.
On some fundamental level, mission accomplished.
Directed by Scott Waugh, most recently known for Act of Valor, Need for Speed suffers from being at least twenty minutes too long and dialogue penned by George Gatins that doesn't do much more than drive home just how ludicrous everything is here. Don't get me wrong. I'm not opposed to ludicrous. Heck, I have a soft spot for Adam Sandler films. I just really despise it when the dialogue I'm listening to constantly reminds me just how silly everything is that's going on.
Once released from the lock-up, Tobey's revenge takes the form of a super secret race (that everyone seems to know about) put on by a super reclusive billionaire (Michael Keaton) who is more obvious than that bug-eyed Waldo on the printed page. Tobey only has 45 hours to get from New York to California, but never fear (No, silly. It's not Underdog) Julia (Imogen Poots) is here with a $2 million customized Shelby Mustang that just so happened to have been the same vehicle at the center of the race that caused his conviction a couple years back.
Serendipity? Where is John Cusack when you need him?
Supported by his crew from his shop, Tobey hightails it Eastward via Detroit.
Yeah, I didn't understand it either. It's especially weird when you consider the fact that everyone knows that a Mustang is worthless in the snow.
But, I digress.
With Julia by his side and his buddies, including Benny (Scott Mescudi), Finn (Rami Malek), and Joe (Ramon Rodriguez), the new millennium version of the Cannonball Run heads east without Dom Deluise but with oodles and oodles of style and attitude.
I'm hoping that by now you've caught on that the best way to approach Need for Speed is mindlessly, as it's certainly never a good sign when you keep saying to yourself "Well, it's no Fast & The Furious, but it will do."
With a poster reminiscent of Cruise's Days of Thunder, and a plot so riddled with holes that I felt like I was driving along the streets of Indianapolis, Need for Speed is neither good enough to actually recommend nor bad enough to thoroughly enjoy trashing.
It's simple. Need for Speed is about guys who have a need, a need for speed. While under no circumstances should you waste your hard-earned cash on the 3-D version of the film, if fast cars and faux justice are your things then by all means go check it out.
Me? I'll wait for Furious 7.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic