I haven’t played the Need for Speed video game in so long it would be fair to say I’ve never played it at all. So I went in expecting to see a wannabe Fast & Furious movie rather than something derived from a successful video game.
Aaron Paul plays Tobey Marshall, a genius mechanic and a talented driver who never made it out of Mt. Kisco, the tiny town he was born in. Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) on the other hand made it out into the big bad world and he is something of a racing legend (even though Kisco locals believe Tobey is the better driver). In the extended prologue that sets up this movie Dino drives back into town with Anita (Dakota Johnson) to offer Tobey and his team (Scott Mescudi, Harrison Gilbertson, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez) a chance to finish building a legendary car that was left unfinished by the death of one of the designers. When the car is built, and tested, Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots) buys it.
All of this, and the death of a minor character, is merely setup for why Tobey eventually ends up in a race for a big prize–against Dino–after being imprisoned for a couple of years. Once the racing begins, there are several really cool cars driven really fast along roads that seem like they were built for this type of racing.
I will admit I was envious of the beautiful stretches of tarmac that are on display in this movie. Having driven in Mumbai traffic for years I appreciate what the cast and crew of Need For Speed are working with. And while the movie has some serious pacing — and character-development — issues it was also kind of fun to watch, and listen to, those cars race along.
The performances in this movie are strictly one-note, often hammy, and one wouldn’t accuse many character relationships of being well developed. Sure Tobey takes on Dino to right a wrong but he seems motivated more by the desire to shame his old rival than to actually bring him to justice. But then again, none of those would be reasons fans of the game would go check out this movie, right?
Final Analysis: Not a bad attempt at turning a video game about cars driving fast and reckless into some semblance of a narrative. It was also a good idea to take longer than usual to set up the stakes so that the rest of the narrative feels like it is in the movie for a reason. Also, this is another movie that does not benefit from being in 3D.
My Advice: If you have a need to see really expensive cars driven (seemingly) recklessly, go ahead and check this one out on the big screen. It is fun enough, even though that finale is nowhere as satisfying as the better movies in the Fast & Furious series.