Aaron Paul takes his first post-Breaking Bad step into the limelight in Need for Speed, a big-screen adaptation of the popular video-game series.
Paul is a fine actor, but he’s miscast here as Tobey Marshall, a street racer looking for revenge after doing time for a crime he didn’t commit. Actually, for a crime he sort of didn’t commit.
Wait … now that I’m actually writing about this, I realize he’s pretty much guilty of the crime, even though the movie tries to pass him off as innocent. Man, this movie is stupid.
Tobey has an auto shop that tries to do big-payday racecar jobs. He also moonlights as a street racer—one of those jackasses who blaze around in hot rods on public streets, endangering the lives of other drivers and pedestrians. Yes, this film’s central character and supposed hero is a big moron. It’s hard to get behind a character with such a reckless disregard for others, whose joyriding causes major catastrophes while he cackles with glee—because he’s going really, really fast in a really, really neat car.
Tobey’s nemesis, Dino (Dominic Cooper), walks into his shop and offers Tobey the chance to build a super Mustang. Tobey hates Dino, but he needs the dough, so he takes the gig. When all is said and done, the two wind up drag-racing for the profit on the car, with Tobey’s Justin Bieber lookalike pal, Little Pete (Harrison Gilbertson), racing in his own car. Little Pete winds up wiping out and dying thanks to a high-speed bump from Dino, who then flees the scene.
Tobey winds up taking the heat for Little Pete’s death and does some serious time, and he’s looking for payback when he gets out of jail. Circumstances lead to him racing across the country in the Mustang he built; Imogen Poots is in the passenger seat. They do all sorts of crazy crap on their cross-country trek, including flying the car through the air to avoid police during one particular chase. (I must admit that impossible feat looked cool.)
I caught a 3-D screening, and the 3-D is put to rather good use. Many shots make the viewer feel engaged in a real race. When Little Pete meets his twisty end, the whole thing is shown from the inside of the car, and it’s a nifty trick. As for the plot, this one unfortunately ends up being only slightly better than your average Fast and Furious movie—a franchise I have grown to despise over the years.
Paul has done some decent big-screen acting in the past, with his part as an alcoholic in Smashed being his best. His future slate—including a film called Fathers and Daughters, a role in Ridley Scott’s Exodus, and possible involvement in the Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul—looks promising.
That’s good, because his attempt to become the new Vin Diesel or Nicolas Cage has fallen flat. Need for Speed might look cool during some of the race scenes, but it stalls when anybody opens their mouths.
Need for Speed is playing at theaters across the valley.