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Review: Need For Speed

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*Epic film trailer voice* From producer Shane Black and the studio that brought you the Oscar-winning films American Beauty, Memoirs of a Geisha and Lincoln. Starring Aaron Paul, one of the most revered actors of recent television history and MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss winner, Michael Keaton comes….Need For Speed.

Synopsis: NYYYYEEERRRRRRRR ERRRRRRR NEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR pfsst ERRRRRRRRR NYERRR NYERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR [more car noises].

It’s a bit silly to call Need For Speed an adaptation of the video-game franchise of the same name. There has been about as much plot throughout the series’s 23-game run as there is sense in Aaron Paul choosing this as his first leading role in a mainstream movie. Reliable sources (the internet!) tell me that many of the cars and locations – or ‘tracks’ – are modelled after those in the game series but I’m still not entirely convinced that that can constitute as an adaptation; it’s more of a tie-in, really.

Need For Speed was never going to be the Citizen Kane of the Speed Racer genre – a genre that smacks of delinquents and the simple-minded anyway – but it is a shame that first-time writer George Gatinscouldn’t think of a story better than one of boy racing vengeance and uninteresting melodrama that any given acne-ridden teen could have written themselves.

Obviously, there are people out there who will enjoy the fast-paced, boyish action of Need For Speedwithout worrying about the pitiful plot. And to be fair, I would be remiss to not admit that during some of the film’s more action-heavy scenes I regularly tensed up and rooted for the least annoying character on the screen at any given time. This is mostly down to the film’s driving action being completely practical with only minor touch-ups in the editing department, rather than it being a CGI mess. Thrilling and cohesive action is the least anyone should expect from stuntman-turned-director Scott Waugh, though – and there, Need For Speed delivers. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is a tad on the shit side.

With an overemotional score that has no idea how to let up and cringe-worthy characters (not actors), when we’re not riding shotgun in the moderately exhilarating driving scenes, we have to sit through what feels like hours of a mashup of a daytime soap and any teen drama currently airing on The CW channel.

Wow. Much The CW. Such douchebaggery.

Painful characters and plot aside, most of the actors aren’t bad, and that’s what is so wasteful. The stars drown in the insufferable material offered, which does make you wonder just how much Aaron Paul,Imogen Poots and even Michael Keaton were offered for their roles. We’re still early in the year but this could be 2014’s winner for Film With Most Squandered Talent.

No matter what I write, you had already made your mind up about whether to see this film or not before you clicked on the link that brought you here. If smashy-smashy, snog-snog, boyish-spat action films are what you like, buy a ticket immediately. If you’re just after seeing Aaron Paul’s first mainstream vehicle (no! no pun intended!), sure, go ahead and book a ticket too – just take a toy steering wheel and some cans of Carlsberg (got to keep up appearances) with you so you can at least pretend you’re having fun.

@sjbowron

Need For Speed is in UK cinemas from 12th March 2014.

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