“The Fast and the Furious” is a great movie. When compared to the latest fast car drama, Need for Speed, that is. It has more fully developed characters played by more interesting actors, a less implausible plot, better choreographed racing and cuter cheerleaders. That last one is a bit of stretch, however; there really are no losers when comparing the looks of Imogen Poots (“Filth”) to Jordana Brewster (“Fast and Furious 6”).
There are losers everywhere else, though. Namely, Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul, “Breaking Bad” TV series). Like every movie in this genre, there is a criminal element to it and he is it, although director Scott Waugh (“Act of Valor”) tells us he shouldn’t be. The real bad guy is Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”), a successful legitimate racer who, during an unsanctioned street race, kills Tobey’s best friend Pete (Harrison Gilbertson, “Beneath Hill 60”) but lets Tobey take the fall.
A man can dream up a great many ways to exact revenge when sitting in the clink for two years. Tobey, unfortunately, can only muster up wanting to challenge Dino to a race. Not just any race, mind you — it’s the “De Leon,” the most famous illegal street race of the year, or so says Michael Keaton (“RoboCop”) as the announcer/promoter/financer guy. Luckily, Tobey easily obtains a 2.7 million dollar Shelby Mustang and is able to reassemble his talented rag-tag team of automotive experts — Benny (recording artist, Kid Cudi), Joe (Ramón Rodríguez, “Battle Los Angeles”) and Finn (Rami Malek, “Short Term 12”) — to help since their alternative is to continue sitting around doing a whole lot of nothing.
The final straw is Poots, and with her riding shotgun, the New York to San Francisco cross country adventure of Need for Speed begins.
The path to get there is fraught with obstacles, of course. There are traffic jams and those pesky toll booths to contend with! No, I kid you not, and the solution to such annoyances is to put the greater public in harm’s way by breaking every imaginable law as Tobey speeds down side streets, jumps curbs and weaves through parking lots to circumvent. It’s fun to watch — impressive car handling skills always are — but it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever since all he needed to do is activate the “traffic reroute” option on his navigation app on his smartphone. It would have saved him gas, damage to the multi-million dollar car he’s borrowed and eliminated every cop on Earth being in pursuit.
Also in pursuit are hapless bounty hunters but at least in their incompetence they’re treated to the best stunt of the show.
Now I’m kidding. Actually the best stunt in Need for Speed comes from Aaron Paul managing to maintain a blank stare for the entire 132 minutes of mindlessness. It is, however, only mildly better than the Dominic Cooper’s constant glare — he even glares at his wife Anita (Dakota Johnson, “21 Jump Street”) and she sticks with him even though she knows he is a lying asshat. I do feel bad for Imogen Poots having to stand between these guys. She’s got more than just pretty looks going for her but starring in throwaways like this and January’s “That Awkward Moment” is not helping her cause to gain a foothold in the states.
Need for Speed is quite literally a car crash on all fronts. Even its stunts, while commendable for actually being stunts done with real cars and real people, can’t hold a candle to its fancier brethren. At least that explains why more car manufacturers didn’t offer their flagship vehicles to the production (Ford didn’t seem to mind much). As to why everything else is so bad, there is no explanation.