[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B00HYU5AIQ][/pullquote] Video game movies. Just the sentence alone sends a shudder down most film fans’ spines. Despite the fact that some games seem ripe for films, they almost never work. From Tomb Raider to Doom, and Alone In The Dark to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. It could be put down to difference in mediums, but plenty of games are cinematic, so it must be just a matter of hiring bad people to make the films. The latest adaptation, of EA’s (boo) racing series Need for Speed probably makes the least sense of any game movie I’ve seen in a long time. The games were largely plotless, and they haven’t made much money since 2005, so apparently EA have made a last ditch attempt at a restart of the franchise by making it into a feature film. God help us all.
Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is an impoverished mechanic/street racer who is approached by his rival Dino (Dominic Cooper) to fix up a Ford Mustang and make it into the super ultimate race car. When he succeeds, he races Dino for all of the profits of the car, but ends up getting his friend Pete (Harrison Gilbertson), the third racer, killed. When Dino produces an alibi, Tobey goes to prison for manslaughter. When he is released two years later, Tobey gets the buyer of the Ford Mustang to sponsor him in a massive illegal street race, set up by Monarch (Michael Keaton). In his super Ford Mustang and the buyer’s assistant Julia (Imogen Poots) in tow, Tobey goes off to have his vengeance against Dino, in the only way he knows how…in a race.
“All my enemies shall perish.”
That was a quote from a prayer in the original trailer. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it into the final film, and Need For Speed would have benefited from taking itself far more seriously than it does, like in that original trailer. It has a voice over prayer, and an opera. It’s ‘so bad it’s good’ perfection. As it stands, Need For Speed is a mildly entertaining and diverting film that doesn’t challenge nor does anything new.
You know your plot is clichÃ©d when a Dreamworks film about a snail with car powers that came out a year beforehand that was basically a satire hits all the same plot points. It’s not as silly or ridiculous as the Fast & Furious films, and suffers for it. Sometimes, that tone comes through a bit, especially with Michael Keaton, who is hamming the role up to no end, and is easily the best part of the film. The problem is Need For Speed has pretty low stakes, so doesn’t do much to get you invested.
The actors, for the most part, are relatively mediocre. Apparently the video game movie curse stretches to actors too, as Aaron Paul seems to have temporarily lost his ability to come across as charismatic and in the slightest bit interesting. Instead, he’s dark, brooding, and constantly serious, which does not make for an engaging leading man. Imogen Poots doesn’t fair much better, as she’s supposed to be the annoying one but ends up being the character you’re rooting for as she is constantly put in danger and trouble with the police because of this dumb street racer and his personal vendetta.
If Need For Speed has been a little worse, it would have actually be better, or at least more entertaining. As it is it’s pretty terrible, but entertaining enough, and the two hours goes by pretty quickly.