What to say about a racing movie that’s stuck in idle as drama? For starters, don’t race to see it. Need for Speed is based on a racing video-game franchise that has sold 150 million copies. It stars Aaron Paul (Jesse on the immortal Breaking Bad). Paul is a good actor, with two Emmys to prove it, but he’s not a screen-filling star presence in the muscle-bound mold of Vin Diesel (The Fast and the Furious). This stings because there’s nothing to distract you from a plot so tired there are tire tracks from other racing movies all over it.
To illustrate: Paul plays Tobey Marshall, a street racer just out of prison for a crime – all together now – he did not commit. He blames his rival Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper, doing slime personified) for leaving the scene of a racing accident and making Tobey take the rap. Now Tobey wants to beat Dino at his own game by winning the De Leon, the Oscar of street-racing contests. With the help of Brew ster’s pert Brit partner, Julia (a slumming Imogen Poots), Tobey breaks parole to race from New York to San Francisco in just two days.
At that point, director Scott Waugh finally starts the movie’s engines. Too bad the impressive muscle cars and stunt drivers can’t move as fast as the tongue of Michael Keaton, who does Beetlejuice on speed as a racing DJ. Keaton is entertaining. The movie itself is not. It’s got no vroom in it.