Release Date: 12th March 2014
Director: Scott Waugh
Starring: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Scott Mescudi, Imogen Poots
Cinema and video games have a rocky relationship. Attempts to bring pixelated heroes to the big screen almost always end in disaster. Heavyweight beat-em-ups like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat lacked any real punch when moved from the Xbox to the multiplexes, while first and third person shooters such as Doom and Max Payne fired blanks at the box-office. There is a deep rooted incompatibility: the characters fall flat, the stories feel preposterous, the mythology gets lost in translation. Could a no-nonsense racing game like Need for Speed be the title to change all that? Not burdened by characters, plots or mythology, could this be the film to finally bring the two art forms together? Of course not.
The ever-so-hot-right-now Aaron Paul takes the driver’s seat in this fuel-injected mess. After copping the blame for the death of his best buddy (One Direction reject, Harrison Gilbertson) in an impromptu street race, quiet mechanic Tobey Marshall embarks on a cross country quest for revenge against bad boy racer Dino (Dominic Cooper). Or is it a journey to win a legendary street race? Or a mission to clear his name? A road trip to get his crew back together? Maybe a chance to charm the blonde chick with his sick skills behind the wheel? And let’s not forget the bounty on his head and the gang of thugs chasing him. There may be a decent story to be told in there somewhere, but director Scott Waugh clearly felt the need to speed through several narratives without giving any of them the proper time to develop.
If the road-trip is a let down, it is nothing compared to the travelling companions. Paul is wasted in a lead role that requires little more than looking ahead with a sense of determination. Imogen Poots is riding shotgun and proves to be as interesting as her near-mute chauffeur. Her soul purpose as eye-candy is confirmed by her endless amount of close-ups. The rest of Marshall’s crew are drafted in straight from failed auditions for the Fast and the Furious franchise. Attempting to capture the playful banter and camaraderie of that series is just embarrassing, and one of many woeful missteps.
Despite a total lack of narrative cohesion and infuriatingly hollow characters, the whole project could have been salvaged by a few kick-ass action sequences. Sadly these too are frustratingly forgettable. The filmmakers are quick to brag about achieving all their stunts without the use computer based special effects (strange considering the franchise’s original format), grounding the car chases in reality. It may be an admirable gesture but it also begs the question; “so what?” The French Connection didn’t use CGI either, but it still managed to create one of the greatest car chase sequences ever committed to film. All Need for Speed will go down as is a footnote in the ever expanding history of failed movie-video game crossovers. A flat-tyre of a film.