Need for Speed is based on a video game. It caters to people who love the experience of speed. There is a huge audience for this sort of thing. To their credit, the writer and director makes every effort to create an actual story and real characters in this presentation. It is easy to compare it to Fast and Furious, but why bother. That gives these sorts of films too much credit. Fast and Furious and Need for Speed are designed to give people a thrill. If anything Need for Speed takes things more seriously than the Fast and Furious series. It also focuses more on beautiful and very expensive cars. Some of the cars featured include Koenigseggs, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porsches, McLarens, and Jaguars, but Ford Mustangs and Torinos get some of the most lavish praise. It could be a commercial for these cars. In fact, the film could be a commercial for the video game and the car culture, in general. One of the plot points is that the millions of invested in these cars is motivation to overlook past hostilities. The other reason for making this film is to give a star vehicle to Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad).
Tobey Mitchell (Aaron Paul) has a high-performance car shop in Mount Kisco. There are some fun street racing scenes right at the start. It should be stated that, at every point in this film, there is zero concern for the safety of innocent bystanders. The driving is always reckless and insane. He connects with his old girlfriend Anita (Dakota Johnson) who was stolen away by an old friend. That ex-friend Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) is now a big shot in the racing world. Tobey is behind on the mortgage on the shop. Dino offers him $500,000 to fix up a $3,000,000 car. Tobey has no choice but to set their differences aside. All his coworkers and best buddies are totally against it including Anita’s brother Pete (Harrison Gilbertson). Pete is also a bit of a psychic and seer, predicting that Tobey will win a great race that ends at a lighthouse. I’m not going to go on about the plot too much, because it’s predictable and done just to make sure no one just thinks it’s a cheap video game ripoff. Aaron Paul does give full commitment to his role and is actually very good. I don’t think he’s leading man material, but he is able to convey all levels of intensity. This movie would be better off with a Steve McQueen type, but those are nearly non-existent (although I think Tom Hardy has potential, but he’s not in this movie).
Michael Keaton phones in a performance (literally, since he is only seen from the perspective of his Skype setup as the ringleader and organizer of a high profile illegal road race). Keaton plays a kind of shock jock crazy, and Keaton has always been good at crazy. Imogen Potts plays a rich car dealer who takes a liking to Tobey. All I’ll say about the plot is that it turns into a revenge piece where Tobey has to get to clear his name and undo the damage that nasty ex-friend Dino has perpetrated. The outrageousness of the scenes and stunts are entertaining but ridiculous, but that’s kind of the point. The people who go to Need for Speed want to see fast cars going really fast and crashing as much as possible. They want to see goofy, crazy stunts. They’re not going for the acting, but don’t tell Aaron Paul that since he tries so hard. No one else does. I think everyone realizes this is just a paycheck, but that makes sense since the movie falls on Paul’s shoulders. This is his first big-budget big screen starring role. Paul’s got a big-budget Ridley Scott epic called Exodus and a Russell Crowe film called Fathers and Daughters coming up. He obviously has made a big impression with Breaking Bad and will be able to coast on that for a while. Fast and Furious started out big and faded away and then came back strong after being nearly forgotten. I wouldn’t even try to predict the box office prospects on this one. If it doesn’t open big, it will be soon forgotten. This film is empty calories full of gas. Car aficionados will love it though. Parents not so much since it encourages reckless behavior. Aside from the death of Paul Walker, I wonder how many deaths can be attributed to these kinds of films. Remember kids, these are professionals, so don’t do this at home.