CAST: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Ramón Rodríguez, Michael Keaton, Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Dakota Johnson, Harrison Gilbertson
RUNNING TIME: 130 mins
BASICALLY…: Fresh from prison and out for revenge for being incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit, street racer Tobey Marshall (Paul) signs up to race cross-country to avenge the death of his friend…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
People don’t seem to understand that in most cases, adapting a video game into a feature film doesn’t always work out the way they want it to. This problem arose in the past with Super Mario Brothers, Tomb Raider and Prince of Persia to name a few, because those games had interactivity that shared a unique bond with the player and a film version would estrange itself even further from that connection, as well as appearing so nonsensical and removed from reality that it becomes a nightmare to comprehend.
Alas, the same can be said with its latest victim Need For Speed, based on EA’s high-selling car racing series of the same name. However, in this film’s case, the fact that it’s a cursed video game adaptation wouldn’t have mattered so much if it were stronger in other departments but unfortunately it lacks in every other way imaginable.
Director Scott Waugh, whose only previous directing credit was on Navy SEALs propaganda drama Act of Valor, is a former stuntman who still doesn’t seem to have been bitten by the directing bug just yet. His previous line of work has clearly inspired him to favour practical car effects over computer-generated graphics here, and though the effects themselves can be impressive their on-screen portrayal do them little favours. Waugh does not manage to make any of the car chase sequences exciting or tense, because they are shot either so far away or too close for us to understand what is even happening. As a result, it’s hard for us to be engaged with the action and suspense if the filmmakers can’t be bothered to make it suspenseful for us.
The script, on the other hand, is so full of holes it may as well be Swiss cheese. Aaron Paul’s protagonist – and bless him, the Breaking Bad actor is really trying as hard as he can to sell his given material – breaks parole after his release from prison, setting off to California to compete in an illegal street race. However, in one of the film’s many overly-moronic sequences, he drives around recklessly in his extremely-recognisable vehicle which would gather a lot of attention for a wanted criminal trying to lay low. Then, we find out that Dominic Cooper’s one-dimensional villain, who was directly responsible for the death of one of Paul’s teammates, not only keeps a severe piece of evidence – the car he drove in – in an easily accessible storage facility but also keeps binding documents tying him to it on his unguarded computer. Last, but certainly not least, Michael Keaton –in nothing more than a cameo role whose only job is to explain the plot to those smart enough to keep up – is an organiser of an illegal street race who broadcasts the race and even his own face all over the internet. Why during the film’s running time the police never catch on and arrest this guy in his own house is left to the dumbed-down imagination of the audience.
But the biggest problem, especially for a film called Need For Speed, is its pacing. Two hours and ten minutes is far, FAR too long to be spent with characters we don’t care or root for in a world which insults and berates our mere intelligence with every passing second. It so desperately wants to be a grounded, character-driven piece like Bullitt and others before it but fails to be either grounded or character-driven. By the time it finishes its lengthy prologue – which could have easily been reduced to off-screen backstory – an eternity will have felt as if it had passed. After that, they spend most of the running time with story threads that go absolutely nowhere, comic relief characters so aggressively bad and annoying – one, played by Rami Malek, quits his job by stripping naked and walking about in the nude in a scene so awful that this reviewer almost considered walking out after it – and an uncomfortable amount of sexism aimed at Imogen Poots’ Gucci-wearing love interest who is told upfront that women cannot, and should not, be allowed to drive fast cars.
You could cut at least half an hour off, and Need For Speed would still be insufferable.
SO, TO SUM UP…
With its wonky script, incompetent direction and painfully long running time, Need For Speed’s only point of existing is to remind us that the search for the ultimate video game adaptation is still underway. Here’s hoping that The Last Of Us has better luck in the multiplexes than this turkey, an early contender for worst of the year.