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NEED FOR SPEED Breaking Asphalt

by Kevin J. Johnson

NEED FOR SPEED is the latest video-game adaptation (in a long line of video-game adaptations) from Dreamworks Pictures and Electronic Arts. It stars Jesse “Aaron Paul” Pinkman as Tobey Marshall on a quest for vengeance that takes him across the country with his motley crew in tow. Let me be clear: this movie is fun. It’s dumb retro fun, like a bottle of Crystal Pepsi from way back that you can’t resist drinking from. The car stunts are legit: 100% metal meets asphalt, no CG, totaled sports cars aplenty. The cast is affable, not as comedic or funny as the movie wants you to believe, but good enough for a chuckle here or there. The best maneuver (see what I did there?) that this movie does is use the games’ barebones concept of illegal street racing and build a completely new narrative around it with new characters. Helmed by second-generation stuntman Scott Waugh (ACT OF VALOR) and written by George Gatins and John Gatins (FLIGHT), this is a film that aims to please crowds and wreck prohibitively expensive Eurocars. And it does exactly that. It starts slow, real slow, but the tactile nature of the stunt cinematography creates a true sense of danger lacking from recent films, what with their vault-dragging, tank-flipping, indestructible digital cars. The stunt performers in this movie are reaching back to another era of action cinema, one that many contemporary audiences might not be used to. need-for-speed-trailer Aaron Paul’s intensity was a secret weapon for “Breaking Bad,” and he has moments of a true command of the silver screen in this movie. I’ll be interested to see what else he has to offer cinematically, but this film gives him more to do than I expected. Not much more, but more (seriously, dude has THE most intense close-up I’ve seen in a while). Fans of “50 Shades of Grey” may also get a kick out of seeing Anastasia “Dakota Johnson” Steele in this flick too, almost as a pre-lap warmup if you will (see what I did there? No? Okay, never mind). I don’t fault a shark for not having feathers; you know whether or not this is your cup of tea. If you’d like vehicular mayhem from another era, I recommend BULLITT, VANISHING POINT or RONIN. But if you’re a fan of Mr. “Braking Bad” Paul (see what I did… okay, I’ll stop!), car chase action, or the game series in general, a matinee wouldn’t hurt. There’s not enough octane in this flick to start the summer off early, but it’s a solid crowd-pleasing time at the movies.

Rating: [imax/MATINEE/dollar-show/redbox/netflix/skip-it]