The "Need for Speed" video game allows armchair drivers to race exotic cars at top speeds from the safety of their living rooms. It's very popular, and a lot of fun, which is why the game's creators decided to try and turn "Need for Speed" into a big budget movie.
The movie doesn't work as well as the video game, but it still delivers an adrenaline rush that will keep car junkies happy, even if the backstory is decidedly mediocre.
Aaron Paul stars as Tobey, a mechanic who dreams of becoming a legendary street car racer. One of those races goes tragically wrong. Tobey is wrongly convicted of manslaughter and is sent to prison. When our hero is finally released, two years later, he hits the streets looking for revenge against the man who framed him.
Revenge comes in the form of speeding across country to compete in an illegal street race called the De Leon. Yes, I realize that this doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but "Need for Speed" isn't one of those movies that care about anything other than the racing sequences. Logic flies out the window when you're doing 190mph through the streets of downtown Detroit.
The good news is that the chase sequences and car stunts are pretty amazing. Former stuntman turned director Scott Waugh has a pretty good knack for putting the audience right in the driver's seat and then pushing the pedal to the metal. It's high-adrenaline, thrilling stuff.
Unfortunately, the rest of the movie doesn't work quite as well. The story is clichéd, full of story logic issues and peppered with some truly wince-inducing dialogue. Poor Aaron Paul does his best to pull audiences into his character's quest for revenge and redemption, but it's an uphill battle when working against such a mediocre screenplay.
His supporting cast doesn't fare much better. With the exception of Imogene Poots, who provides some PG-13 rated sexual sparks, the rest of the supporting cast comes across as a unremarkable collection of over-the-top caricatures.
Of course it could be argued that the exotic cars are the real supporting players here. They might even be the stars of the show. I don't consider myself to be much of a car lover, but there's no denying the appeal of the beautiful machines on display in this movie.
Mix those beautiful cars in with the impressive stunt work and plenty of high-octane street racing and you have an edge-of-your-seat action film that's just exciting enough to make you forget about the film's boring human elements.
2 1/2 Stars