NEED FOR SPEED
(Dir. Scott Waugh, 2014)
The wildly popular AMC series Breaking Bad may have put Aaron Paul on the pop culture map, but this, his first major lead in a motion picture most likely won't be his big screen breakthrough.
The clichés come fast and furious (sorry) in this formulaic car chase action flick based on a long running video game series, something I didn’t know before my 10-year old nephew clued me in.
Paul stars as a badass racecar driver who runs his recently deceased father’s heavily in debt auto body shop in Mt. Kisco, N.Y. when he’s not participating in secret races after hours. Dominic Cooper as an obviously evil car dealer and ex-NASCAR driver pops up to make him an offer he can’t refuse: if Paul and his crew, made up of Scott Mescudi (AKA Kid Cudi for you hip hop fans), Ramón Rodríguez, Rami Malek, and Harrison Gilbertson, complete work on a custom Shelby GT500 Mustang, they will get a share of the $2 million the car will supposedly sell for.
The spirit of testosterone-fueled competition gets in the way of Paul and crew collecting their due when a race between Paul, Cooper, and Gilbertson goes tragically wrong, in a way anybody who’s ever seen a movie before can guess. Paul is sent to jail for involuntary manslaughter for Gilbertson’s death, which was actually caused by Cooper, but the ruthless creep sped away from the scene leaving no evidence of his involvement.
Cut to 2 years later – Paul is released from jail intent on enacting revenge on Cooper, so he travels cross country to California to take part in the De Leon, an elaborate illegal race organized by Michael Keaton offering the only performance of any vitality as a mysterious millionaire, who offers high energy commentary via the internet on the action.
Imogen Poots, as a car dealer/automotive expert but really more the obvious love interest tags along with Paul as they power through to the explosion-filled, embarrassingly over-melodramatic, and patience-testing finale.
The post production 3D conversion doesn’t help the film’s visuals, shot by Shane Hurlbut, who also worked with Director Waugh on his previous film, the abysmal ACT OF VALOR. Aerial in-your-face shots of cars flipping, and slow-motion jumps just aren’t any more impressive or enhanced any more than they’d be in 2D. Sure, the race sequences have a fair amount of cool looking stunts, but not enough to make this anywhere close to an essential experience, even for hardcore car racing maniacs, and certainly not enough to justify the movie’s 130 minute running time.
Paul does his best as the ultra-driven driver who has some weird sort of tunnel-vision super power that the movie makes no intent to explain, but the hammy dialogue he has to spout out, along with the lousy one-liners that he has to deliver (courtesy of first-time screenwriter George Gatins), keep dragging him down to their dreary level. From Cooper to Poots, Paul’s supporting cast doesn’t fare much better, though Poots gets some amusingly gooey close-ups.
Only Keaton and Mescudi appear to be really having a laugh on their way to picking up their paychecks.
Maybe Waugh is the new Hal Needham *, that is a former stuntman turned filmmaker, whose movies were stupid but they had great stunts in them.
But as B-movie bad as the late Needham’s films could be (pretty much everything except the original SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT is awful), they were at least a lot more fun than this noisy and hard to watch piece of car crash crap.
Worse yet, Paul doesn't even get to add his trademark "Bitch" to the ends of any of his lines.
* Waugh's father, Fred Waugh, was best friends with Needham so, yeah a definite influence.