Starring Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, and Imogen Poots. Rated PG. Now playing
Now that the Fast and Furious team has morphed into blue-collar James Bonds, saving the world one CG action sequence at a time, there’s a space in the street-race genre. A need has arisen to fill that void. A need for new faces, new cars. A need for… some background.
In 1994, game developers Electronic Arts released the first Need for Speed. Conceptually, it was similar to their Test Drive games for Accolade: a first-person driving simulator in which you outrun cops.
Subsequent iterations added better graphics and other improvements, but the formula remained intact up to and including this live-action film directed by Scott Waugh. Ironically, the Need for Speed movie avoids computer graphics altogether. As with his previous feature, Act of Valor, Waugh gives us long chase scenes shot from multiple angles and edited for coolness. As in Asian martial-arts movies, the objective is to prove that the stunt actually happened, not necessarily to advance the plot.
Unlike Act of Valor, Adkins has real actors at his command.
Aaron Paul stars as Tobey, unbeatable in car challenges and pretty much clueless in everything else. For reasons of finance, jealousy, and vengeance he is required to enter a contest called “the Deleon” against Dino (Dominic Cooper), a rival who is almost as talented and vastly more evil. Riding shotgun with Tobey is the car’s minder, Julia (Imogen Poots). And presiding over all is a mysterious billionaire (Michael Keaton), who hypes the Deleon from his secret lair, not unlike Lynne Thigpen in The Warriors.
Collectively, the actors get us over the plot machinations that create the rivalries and alliances of the movie, which wants to be a good version of The Cannonball Run or The Gumball Rally. It isn’t really—or maybe that is just my prejudice against street racing—but it did stir up dormant gearhead fantasies with an array of epic shots. When the cars soar, so does Need for Speed.