The popular videogame series from Electronic Arts gets a big screen adaptation, aiming to reach the same adrenalin junkies flocking to the Fast & Furious franchise. Does the film cruise past the other videogame movie wreckage? As a game-turned-movie it's closer in spirit to the entertainingly brain dead Resident Evil flicks than the pretty darn boring Tomb Raiders. At its heart, RE are basically, genre horror films and a similar thing is happening with Need for Speed: It might be based on a game, but the spirit of '60s drag racing is the film's real DNA.
Aaron Paul, fresh off his time cooking with Mr. White plays Tobey, a speed racer who must make it across the country in 45 hours to compete in a secret winner takes all cars race. He's doing it to avenge the death of his pal Pete who he was wrongly accused of killing and did a two-year stint in jail so you know, this time it's personal.
Does Tobey's need for speed give the mega-successful F&F series a competitive run around the track? Here are the ways Need for Speed isn't merely a Fast retread:
1. Driving Diversity: One of the defining, most alluring aspects of the F&F films is the wonderfully diverse cast of stars. While Tobey's crew is also ethnically diverse, it feels less inspired by the story, more generic.
2. Carroll Shelby Is Still the Man: The sweet spot of any racing game is getting that one ultimate ride with all right the modifications. Legendary Ford designer Carroll Shelby's GT350 is Mustang-based and is the film's real star. The car was seen last year in the Ethan Hawke thriller Getaway.
3. Barely Any Heists: The plot primarily involves Tobey getting to the West Coast to race. Only a scene that forces the police on the east coast to chase him comes approaches the well-executed shenanigans of Dom's crew. Let's remember that Fast's Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Paul Walker) once stole a safe from a bank by attaching it to their muscle cars.
4. MVP: Michael Keaton as Monarch: One man is funding the race and he's only seen in a single non-descript room. (His hi-tech monitoring of the racers is a nice nod to the videogame.) Keaton brings just the right amount of mania.
5. East vs. West: While F&F has traveled all over the world, the first one took place in deep urban landscape of L.A. Tobey and his crew are small-town kids from New York state. In fact, the opening feels very American Graffiti.
6. No Hitting the NoS, er NoZzzz Button: The races in the film are stunningly choreographed. (The collusions sport in-the-car cam!) Yet there's never a use of Nitros to get that extra boost. The vehicles are million-dollar works of art, not tuned up street rides.