Videogame adaptations are something of a poisoned chalice in Hollywood. One the one hand with a big-name game you have an already established audience of potentially millions; on the other, they’re notoriously difficult to get anything close to right, and the vast majority get banished to the bargain bin shortly after their release.
Hoping to piggyback on the success of the Fast & The Furious franchise, Need For Speed is heavy on daft action, and light on anything resembling an engaging story. It opens with a street race organised using all manner of hi tech gadgetry and monitored by a plane, with competitors risking life and limb for a chance to win a paltry five thousand dollars, and from there on out you can guess how much practical sense the rest of the movie is going to make!
Need For Speed centres on ace driver Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) who takes on a job with his friends to fix up a rare Ford Mustang for professional racer Dino (Dominic Cooper). The meeting of the pair reignites petty rivalries which culminate in a race for bragging rights that leaves Tobey’s friend Pete dead and Tobey sent to prison, all while Dino uses his connections and money to get away scot-free. On his exit from prison, Tobey reluctantly enlists the help of car dealer Julia (Imogen Poots) and embarks on a cross country adventure seeking revenge.
The script barrels through material like this, and the rest of the film, with a sense of forward momentum without ever pausing to answer glaringly obvious plot holes and baffling character decisions, hoping to gloss over all the problems with some OTT high octane car-nage. We’re asked to support Tobey in his quest for revenge but forget any due consideration to the dozens of civilians killed or maimed along the way as the races take on ever higher stakes.
Another issue with Need for Speed is that it never bothers to build any characters beyond the thinnest of stereotypes. Tobey’s crew are so anonymous that even their multi-racial casting cannot prevent them from being interchangeable and for all the giddy destruction, the film’s greatest offense is how it treats Poots as nothing more than something pretty to look at, even giving Julia a driving scene of her own just so it can ignore her driving skill and instead cram in a tacky joke about women drivers.
Although much has been made of the fact that the movie favours practical driving stunts instead of CGI, it fails to fully deliver on it’s promise of simple, fun action. Too often the races blend into one another and by the end it’s as repetitive as doing endless circuits on a track on your Playstation. While Aaron Paul’s charisma gets him through Need For Speed more or less unscathed, the best thing said about this movie is that its as forgettable as most videogame adaps these days. Unfortunately another example headed straight for the bargain bin.
(Images courtesy Collider, IMDb, tumblr)