A throwaway big-screen adaptation of EA's popular videogame series, Need for Speed sees former blue-collar mechanic Tobey Marshall (Breaking Bad 's Aaron Paul) take on super-privileged rival Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) in a crazy road race involving crazy Swedish Koenigsegg supercars. The encounter does not end well, and Tobey spends the next two years in jail wrongly convicted and framed by Dino, of course.
When our hard-luck hero returns to his small-town auto shop (picture an outlet in American Graffiti but with less edge), the unexpected but welcome voice of Michael Keaton announces the De Leon, a Cannonball Run -style fracas, an occasion that may allow Tobey to get revenge on cocky Dino.
Hurtling along in a tricked out Ford Mustang, Tobey takes to the streets with sassy Julia (Imogen Poots) on the passenger side and a back-up team of The Pacific 's Rami Malek and hip-hop artist Scott Mescudi (aka Kid Cudi) as an army reserve pilot who apparently enjoys unprecedented access to military aircraft.
Much driving ensues.
Aaron Paul heads up a talented cast in this cornball actioner. But why? They could all do better. Paul brings something of Steve McQueen to the proceedings, but cartoonish muscle cars require cartoonish muscle drivers. Glue Need for Speed 's entire cast together and they wouldn't fill the space occupied by The Rock or Vin Diesel in the superior Fast and Furious franchise.
The fancy driving, as executed between director Scott Waugh, cinematographer Shane Hurlbut and stunt coordinator Lance Gilbert, is impressive: a Koenigsegg double-flips in the air and the trusty Mustang takes a 50-metre leap across a busy thoroughfare.
Still, one can't help but yearn for the comparatively deep characterisation and cerebral plotting of an old Roger Corman racing flick. Nothing in Need for Speed makes a lick of sense: the geography is off, the story daft, the cliches plentiful.
Gearheads will be appreciative, but we'll just sit by this roadside and wait for Michelle Rodriguez to come back, thanks.