With 150 million units sold, Electronic Arts’ Need For Speed is the most successful racing videogame series of all time. But don’t bank on this tie-in movie gaining the same sort of longevity. While it would love to kick-start a franchise like The Fast & The Furious, it will take a miracle for that to happen.
On the surface, NFS has a lot going for it. Former stuntman Scott Waugh at the helm; a hot-to-trot cast, led by Breaking Bad’s effortlessly likeable Aaron Paul; and more cool cars than Jeremy Clarkson’s driveway. Unfortunately, it’s also got a clanging script from debutant George Gatins, bogged down by dreary dialogue, flawed logic and appalling characterisation.
Paul plays Tobey Marshall, a street racer who’s jailed after being falsely convicted of killing of his friend during an illegal race. The real culprit is old rival Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), who lured Tobey towards his fate after asking him to soup up a classic car for a profit share.
Emerging from prison, Tobey is desperate for revenge – which comes in the form of a cross-country race organised by a mystery benefactor (Michael Keaton). Joining Tobey is Julia (Imogen Poots), the British girl who brokered the sale of the car Tobey and Dino worked on. Ludicrously, Julia’s boss is foolhardy enough to let her enter the race with his priceless vehicle.
Need For Speed gets it right in one area: the stunts are pure adrenalin shots – from a wonderful cross-freeway leap that will leave your jaw hanging to a stunning helicopter car-lift. So where do the problems lie? Let’s start with the clichéd characters, from Cooper’s all-in-black villain to Poots’ posh totty who – surprise, surprise – knows more about engines than Jenson Button (“never judge a girl by her Gucci boots,” she says).
Then there’s the plot. For a film that rushes along at 100 mph, you can also see the twists a mile off. Lacking F&F’s urban credibility, this is a well-behaved younger brother; the end result is like a poor man’s Cannonball Run. Come back Burt Reynolds – all is forgiven.
The cars are hot, the action is decent, but the characters and plot need a serious tune-up.