Here’s the first, and really only, thing you need to know about Need for Speed: It’s not a video game movie. It’s a car movie. In fact, it’s essentially assembled from pieces of all the great ’60s and ’70s car movies: Gone In Sixty Seconds (the H.B. Halicki original, mind you, not the remake), Vanishing Point, The Driver, all the wonderful movies of the ’70s that exist solely to trash millions of dollars of cars. And that’s precisely what this movie goes on to do.
On an objective level, Need For Speed is a bad movie. Aaron Paul tries hard, but he’s just miscast. The plot is so utterly moronic you’ll wonder if it was actually written or just improvised by the actors on the set as a joke. You could replace most of the dialogue with dialogue from another movie and lose quite literally nothing in the translation. The only one who comes out of this with his dignity intact is Kid Cudi, who steals the movie and shows he’s got some great comedic timing. These parts aren’t so bad they’re good; they’re just bad.
And all this would be a problem if this were a movie where the people were the stars. But they’re not. This is a movie about cars. Cars blowing up. Cars going fast. Cars hurtling through the air. And all of it, gloriously, done as in-camera stunt-work.
It must be said it wears its influences right on its sleeve: Michael Keaton’s character is so blatantly Super Soul from Vanishing Point, for example, that it’s not even funny. But the stunt work is impeccable and thrilling. This movie came to trash cars, and by God, it’s going to trash a lot of cars.
Is that worth ten bucks? Probably not. This is destined for HBO by summer and the $5 bin by this time next year. It’s a cash-in. But, if you want to go see cars blow up real good? This will do the job and then some.