Need for Speed

Directed By: Scott Waugh

Starring: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Kid Cudi, Imogen Poots, Ramón Rodriguez, and Michael Keaton

Movies based on video games are a hard sell.  Titles like Mortal Kombat, Doom, and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time should all evoke some bad memories.  We've all regretted going to go see one of these often cheesy, underdeveloped adaptations that don't do justice to the games we love.  That being said, I had anything but high expectations for Scott Waugh's interpretation of Need for Speed.  As a director, the only other credit to his name is the Navy SEALs action movie Act of Valor, which was decent at best.  Putting together a story based on the damn few is far different from putting together a story based on a PlayStation racing game.  Waugh demonstrates that he’s not quite up to the task.

Having recently lost his father, Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is strapped for cash to keep his dad's auto garage afloat.  When his longtime rival Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) and his ex-girlfriend Anita (Dakota Johnson) arrive in Mt. Khisko, opportunity surprisingly knocks on Tobey's door.  Dino would like to sell the rarest of Ford Mustangs to the buyer with the highest bid.  First, however, he needs to finish building the car.  For that, he needs the help of Tobey and his crew — Benny (Scott Mescudi or Kid Cudi), Finn (Rami Malek), Joe (Ramón Rodriguez), and Little Pete (Harrison Gilbertson).  At the prospect of getting a large cut of a multimillion dollar deal, Tobey and his boys take Dino's offer and build the best Ford Mustang in the world.  Topping off at a speed of 234 miles per hour, this beauty sells for $2.7 million easy.  There's just one problem, Tobey will never see his cut.

To impress savvy car dealer Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots) and prove to her employer that the Mustang can indeed top 230 miles per hour, Toby takes the vehicle for a spin.  Though this is what ultimately seals the deal for the sale, Dino is not too happy with Tobey's move.  Words are said between the two former rival drivers that can only be settled behind the wheel with each person's cut from the sale on the line.  Little Pete gets in on the action as well.  Racing illicitly imported European Koenigsegg Agera cars across the highways of New York, Dino and Tobey go back and forth.  When Dino ends up in third behind Little Pete, he rams Pete's rear and sends him into a fiery crash.  Naturally, Tobey goes to try and save his friend.  Fleeing the scene and continuing the race, Dino goes on to win and take Tobey's cut.  As for Little Pete, it’s too late.

For what transpires on that fateful day, Tobey spends two years in federal prison.  Once out, he intends to exact revenge on Dino by beating him at a super-secret underground street race known as the De Leon hosted by a guy named Monarch (Michael Keaton).  To do so, he's going to need some wheels, and he's going to need to get from New York to California in the next 45 hours.  For this, Julia Maddon and her employer lend Tobey the very Ford Mustang he built several years prior.

I know there's one thing I won't be saying about Need for Speed — "Yeah, bitch!"  While his partner in crime Bryan Cranston will be breaking bad in Godzilla this summer, Aaron Paul, whom some of you may know as Jesse Pinkman, chose to break out in a video game adaptation.  After starring in one of the greatest television shows of all time, Paul joins this hot mess that director Scott Waugh has put together.  Anything and everything that could go wrong in a movie does during Need for Speed.  The story is sloppy and half-cooked.  The cast doesn't gel.  From start to finish, the film is not even watchable.  It's just another video game adaptation gone wrong.

Above all else that goes wrong in Need for Speed, the story is underdeveloped. There's a super-secret street race hosted by Michael Keaton called the De Leon that's at the center of the film.  Why Tobey would proceed to enter that race rather than look for clues to exonerate himself and prove his innocence is beyond me.  Why someone would lend an ex-convict on parole their car worth $2.7 million is perplexing.  How Benny is able to effortlessly steal so many aerial vehicles is downright unbelievable.  Moreover, Waugh's Need for Speed is a series of ludicrous, incomprehensible plot developments that will never materialize into a coherent movie.

Beyond the ill-conceived story, Need for Speed boasts a series of performances from the actors that just don't gel.  Why Aaron Paul chooses to give a brooding portrayal of racer Tobey Marshall is a mystery to me.  I have absolutely no clue why Michael Keaton gives a cartoonish, over-the-top performance as the Monarch.  As Paul's love interest Julia Maddon, Imogen Poots gives a rather rosy, tongue-in-cheek performance that will cause plenty of viewers to roll their eyes more than once.  On their own, each actor gives a somewhat decent performance.  Together, it just doesn't mesh.  That blame lies on the shoulders of the cast for failing to right this wrong.  More importantly, however, this blame lies on Scott Waugh for failing to bring together a central, singular vision of the characters and the world they inhabit.

I could keep going and going about Need for Speed.  There's so much that's wrong with this film.  As it stands, I'm not going to invest that much more energy in ranting about this movie.  It's just the next video game adaptation to bite the dust.  Irish car bombs should help you get through this one.  Need for Speed gets a wasted rating.