With the latest "Fast & Furious" movie being delayed following the death of Paul Walker, there is a void on the release schedule, a "Need for Speed" so to speak.
This action film based on a video game fills it, as long as viewers' need for speed is greater than their need for logic or consequences.
Scott Waugh (''Act of Valor") shows a knack for directing action and, let's face it, that's all the audience that is likely to make this the weekend's top-grossing film cares about. Is anyone who has been watching the commercials that have been running since the Super Bowl thinking, "Gee, this is a movie I want to see for the acting, smart dialogue and a screenplay that fully explores the consequences of the behavior on screen?"
Aaron Paul plays a driver looking to clear his name in “Need for Speed.”
No, they want their cars sleek, their action fast and maybe a nice good-vs.-evil story to tie all those chase scenes together.
For those who want to drool over cars worth hundreds of thousands of dollars executing outrageous moves, "Need for Speed" delivers. The car chase has been a staple of action of films for decades, long enough that it would seem all the possibilities have been exhausted. If Waugh doesn't reinvent the (steering) wheel, he at least makes the genre feel fresh and exhilarating.
The movie also has a unique look in the way it uses 3D. Instead of going for the deep-focus shots used of most 3D films, Waugh and director of photography Shane Hurlbut use a softer focus in the background, which makes the people in the foreground pop even more. It has a less-realistic, more stylized feel that works for this kind of film.
WHAT: "Need for Speed"
STARS: Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots, Dominic Cooper, Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez, Harrison Gilbertson, Dakota Johnson and Michael Keaton
STORYLINE: A race driver framed for the death of his friend looks to clear his name and participate in a secret street race
DIRECTOR: Scott Waugh
RATING: PG-13 for sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language
And yet, as good as the action is, it's hard to give the movie a pass because thinking about anything on screen will make the brain hurt as if it was involved in one of the many high-speed collisions.
Aaron Paul stars as Tobey Marshall, a talented driver struggling to keep his family's garage open after his father's death. Tobey has a rivalry with Dino Brewster, a professional driver who is dating his old girlfriend, Anita (Dakota Johnson).
Early on, Anita thanks Tobey for looking out for her kid brother, Little Pete (Harrison Gilbertson), which is the kiss of death in a movie like this. Sure enough, Little Pete joins Tobey and Dino in a dangerous street race. Dino causes Pete to crash and burn and flees the scene, leaving Tobey to take the blame for Pete's death. Tobey does two years in prison and gets out just in time to clear his name and avenge Pete death by beating Dino in "The DeLeon," a selective, secretive street race with a winner-takes-all prize worth several million dollars.
We're all suppose to mourn the death of Little Pete due to the recklessness of Dino, but nearly all of the race scenes in the movie take place on public thoroughfares. Hero Tobey and everyone else races past innocent drivers, causing countless accidents involving cops and motorists that had to result in severe injuries, if not deaths. But we're not supposed to think about them, just how cool the metal-on-metal crashes look.
That's not the only thing we have to ignore. Anita clearly likes Tobey, but Tobey had to do two years in prison and embark on his parole-breaking mission before Anita does the 30-second computer search that proves Dino was lying and is responsible for the death of her brother. Really?
It's hard to tell whether Paul has a future as a leading man based on this movie. The cars are the stars; the actors are just the props inside them. However, the banter and camaraderie between Tobey and his crew (Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez) is one of the movie's non-horsepowered strengths. And Michael Keaton as the motor-mouthed character behind The DeLeon will make audiences wish he worked more often (and in better films than this).
One other thing: for a movie clearly in love with speed, it could have gotten to the finish line in less than 130 minutes.