Fine, dude, be a rip-off of The Fast and The Furious, I don’t care. I’ll even applaud you if you can steal their everything with style and nerve and muscle, if you can swagger while you do it and really punch me in the face with races/chases/crashes/smashes. I will salute you with one hand while eating Buffalo Wild Wings that I snuck into the theater with the other. I know that’s two things I just said I’d do, the saluting and the applauding, but honestly, really, I’ll do neither because that’s too many activities and not enough hands to do them with and besides, I’ll be busy with the wings. But I won’t hate you, which is important. And more importantly, I won’t feel like walking out and theater-hopping to see if it’s that almost at that part in August: Osage County where Julia Roberts tackles Meryl Streep and delivers the beatdown.
But I do hate you. You are bad at stealing. And if Meryl Streep were here she’d back me up. She’d probably rather watch herself get her ass handed back to her by Julia Roberts, too. You are that uncool a movie, Need For Speed.
Aaron Paul, so good and twitchy and damaged on Breaking Bad, gets his shot at starring in something big and potentially franchise-y. But his squirrely talents are wasted on a character who’s part raspy Vin Diesel, part Burt Reynolds in Smokey and The Bandit, recklessly attempting “what they say cain’t be done,” and part Helen Slater from The Legend of Billie Jean, just a pile of glares and exterior tics with no sign of life inside. What have you done with Aaron Paul, Need For Speed?
Paul, framed and imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, violates parole and jumps into a customized Mustang to prove his innocence and lock down the guilt of the genuine horrible person (Dominic Cooper) responsible for it all. To clear his name he has to drive from New York to California in 45 hours (it could too happen) with British gearhead Imogen Poots riding shotgun. Upon arrival in the Golden State Paul will not sleep, but instead participate in an illegal road race organized by mega-richie Michael Keaton (embarrassing everyone who dares look at him), a weirdo with his own radio program/YouTube channel/podcast/possibly-unplugged-microphone into which he narrates the film’s action, whipping up populist sentiment for our blankly-drawn hero.
But you know what your big problem is, Need For Speed? You're empty and phony. You think you're not merely fast, furious and some sort of heir to the kingdom of Hal Needham, but somehow also, when the mood strikes you, Bullitt, Swordfish, Vanishing Point and Herbie Rides Again. And you are not. You’re just a dull-witted circle jerk of cool-looking cars and noise, photographed badly, racing and chasing with zero charisma or excitement. You’re a movie that can’t figure out how to emulate the staggeringly energetic, utopian car-life of the FF films, so you aim your expensive toys at oncoming school buses and homeless people, laughing all the way as the fantasy/reality line is obliterated and your fictional people nearly kill -- and, keeping it real, at least in the context of all this fakery, sometimes probably do kill -- innocent parties who happen to be sharing the Hot Wheels track. You’re not worthy of the legacy you’re aping, Need For Speed. Go back to Driver’s Ed., or, better yet, mimic the ending of Thelma and Louise.