Blu-ray Review: Need for Speed

It’s always interesting to see the projects an actor will pick after they’ve finished up something substantive. Aaron Paul went from a fairly unknown actor to forever being identified as Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad in one fell swoop. It’ll be a role he’ll be forever identified with no matter what he does; Jesse was an iconic role that earned him two Emmy awards, one of five actors who’ve pulled off that feat. So with the conclusion of Breaking Bad less than a year ago his next step would be an interesting one to say the least. He’d earned critical bonafides in Smashed and has all the potential to be a great character actor. So it’s interesting to see him take a leading role in an action film based off a video game in the Fast & Furious wannabe Need for Speed.

Tobey (Paul) runs a garage and is given the opportunity of a lifetime. He’s to design a car for a millionaire NASCAR driver (Dominic Cooper) with whom he has personal issues from their past. A street race between the two leaves Tobey in jail. He exits prison with one thought on his mind: revenge. Assembling his old team together, his goal is to enter an illegal nationwide street race and beat his arch nemesis on the field of battle. The film follows him as he drives cross country to get to the race, where his opponent and his justice in the streets await.

It’s basically The Cannonball Run meshed with a generic action film … and it’s fairly awful.

The film’s problem is mainly it’s all the worst parts of every car-based action film, from Red Line to the aforementioned Vin Diesel/Paul Walker action series, and none of the good parts. This is a film that takes great care with some brilliant action scenes but is so bare bones in terms of character development and plot that it can’t even marginally pass that cinematic Mendoza line between entertaining crap and … well … crap. This is a wannabe Fast & Furious franchise on so many levels that it’s kind of painful to see everyone just mailing it in.

One can imagine that Paul wanted to experience being an action star just once, hence why he took the role. And after Breaking Bad ended on such a high note I think Paul wanted to do something different because Jesse Pinkman was the role of a lifetime, as he had said in interviews leading up to the show’s finale. Tobey Marshall on the other hand is one you do for the paycheck and it shows; he does just enough to not completely embarrass himself (as does the rest of the cast, mirroring him) but this won’t be a film he puts onto his acting reel anytime soon.

Outside of the usual deleted scenes, et al, there are a handful of extras that aren’t all that terrible. There’s a generic EPK piece, of course, but also a couple of featurettes about the a/v process which are fairly interesting and shed light into the film-making process.

Dreamworks presents Need for Speed. Directed by Scott Waugh. Written by George Gatins, based on a story by George Gatins & John Gatins based off the video game of the same name Starring Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots, Dominic Cooper, Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Harrison Gilbertson, Dakota Johnson, Michael Keaton. Running time: 131 minutes. Rated PG-13. Released: August 5, 2014.

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