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. 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.