Ve­hic­u­lar mayhem makes some pit stops for fun

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - South Broward - - MOVIES - By Michael Phillips

In the race be­tween in­ter­est­ing, long-ish screen noses be­long­ing to good young ac­tors, it’s sim­ply too close to call be­tween Do­minic Cooper and Imo­gen Poots.

Both English per­form­ers and their noses ap­pear in the ex­u­ber­antly stupid time-killer (and if logic were ap­plied, pedes­tri­ankiller), “Need for Speed.” It is based on the Elec­tronic Arts gam­ing fran­chise be­gun in 1994, back when di­nosaurs ruled the Earth and gas was quite a bit cheaper. This was when video games bank­ing on ve­hic­u­lar homi­cide weren’t yet real­is­tic enough to erase the ex­pe­ri­en­tial boundary be­tween an­i­ma­tion and live-ac­tion es­capism.

The point of the movie, of course, is to make the mayhem as fakey-real­is­tic as pos­si­ble, and that para­dox guides a fairly en­ter­tain­ing se­ries of stunts from East Coast to West. When the ac­tors are in cars, the movie’s fun. When they get out to ar­gue, or seethe, it’s uh-oh time. Hap­pily, di­rec­tor Scott Waugh comes out of the stunt world him­self, MPAA rat­ing: PG-13 (for se­quences of reck­less street rac­ing, dis­turb­ing crash scenes, nu­dity and crude lan­guage)

Run­ning time: 2:10

Opens: Fri­day and there’s a re­fresh­ing em­pha­sis on ac­tual, the­o­ret­i­cally dan­ger­ous stunt driv­ing over dig­i­tal ab­sur­di­ties.

Tobey’s our hero, the brood­ing garage me­chanic and street racer played by Aaron Paul of “Break­ing Bad.” Framed for man­slaugh­ter, he broods his way out of prison a cou­ple of years later, hell­bent on re­venge on the smoothtalk­ing an­tag­o­nist, played by Cooper. Their score must be set­tled by way of an il­le­gal road race spon­sored by the mys­te­rioso ex­po­si­tion-shov­eler played by Michael Keaton. To par­tic­i­pate, Paul’s charac- ter tears across the coun­try on a tight dead­line ac­com­pa­nied by Poots’ high-end car dealer, while avoid­ing the bounty hunters out to pre­vent his safe ar­rival.

Paul has talent, though the ac­tor’s idea of sim­mer­ing in­ten­sity in the con­text of “Need for Speed” comes off more like “se­rial killer in the mak­ing.” Cooper, by con­trast, seems to be hav­ing some fun play­ing a dash­ing, das­tardly, sexy beast. At its oc­ca­sional best, the thrills in the film re­call the deliri­ous fun of the “Fast & Fu­ri­ous” fran­chise. Hang­ing out at his small-town drive-in early in the pic­ture, Tobey and the gang en­act their lit­tle drama of ro­man­tic jeal­ousy and street ri­valry while, on the screen be­hind them, Steve McQueen hits the gas in the chase scene from “Bul­litt.” Later there’s a sight gag repli­cat­ing the po­lice car prank in “Amer­i­can Graf­fiti.” “Need for Speed” isn’t much, but the story by Ge­orge Gatins and John Gatins knows where it’s com­ing from and which movies to pil­fer from. The post-pro­duc­tion con­ver­sion to 3-D is lame, for the record. Two di­men­sions are enough for this one.

Aaron Paul stars in “Need for Speed.”

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