Vehicular mayhem makes some pit stops for fun
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.”