Once you've seen Aaron Paul play Jesse Pinkman, it's hard not to expect a lot from him on any screen, big or small.
Playing a custom car builder who's sent to prison after being framed for manslaughter and is hell-bent on revenge upon his release, does he give us a lot in his new movie, the action thriller Need for Speed? Like a Breaking Bad, fantasize-about-wood-working-then-strangle-your-captor-with-a-chain-style performance?
So you long as you don't mind a few bumps in the road, it at least sounds as if there's enjoyment to be derived from the film, which is inspired by the video game series of the same name and costars Dakota Johnson, Dominic Cooper, Michael Keaton (welcome back to movies, sir), Imogen Poots and Kid Cudi.
And then some reviews make Need for Speed sound like a real heap. Here's a sampling of what the critics are saying:
• The New York Times A.O. Scott calls it "an energetic, unpretentious B movie" with driving scenes that are "fun to watch. In the end it's "dumb and loud and sometimes technically impressive, which means that it is successful on its own terms." Shout-out to the Fast & Furious franchise, which Scott calls "much stronger and more imaginative." (And his is hardly the only review to invoke the F&F movies.)
• Eddie Makuch on Game Spot doles out the praise and disses equally, noting that the movie is funny, has fantastic action and is a car lover's dream—but also that Keaton is underused, the plot is a throwaway and Paul, sadly, doesn't deliver.
• Giving it two and a half stars, the Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips calls the movie an "exuberantly stupid time-killer" (at least all the critics seem to be in agreement in the energy department), noting that "when the actors are in cars, the movie's fun." And Paul "has talent" but "comes off more 'serial killer in the making.'"
• "The fast cars are running from the cops. That's pretty much it," writes Chris Ziegler on The Verge.
• Writes the Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey, who bluntly kicks off her review by stating that Need for Speed is no Fast & Furious: "No one is asking for actual logic in these films. Part of the fun is seeing how far from reality the freewheeling stunts can take it. But a sense of the absurdity of the absurd is most definitely required too."
• Then there's the AP's Jessica Herndon, who calls it "an unequivocal thrill that needs to be seen on the big screen," despite it's "clichéd elements."
• Scott Foundas of Variety deems Need for Speed a "mash note to the American muscle car" that "modest, diverting fun that should have at least a couple of good box office laps in it before Divergent and Captain America: The Winter Soldier muscle it off the track."
To put it bluntly.
Need for Speed heads into theaters Friday.