So it's safe to say there might be a little skepticism surrounding the new "Need for Speed" movie. After all, we can already get our physics-defying car movie adrenaline fix from the "Fast and Furious" franchise, right? Well, yes and no. Here's five reasons why you should turn to director Scott Waugh and Aaron Paul's "Need for Speed" if you should find yourself needing more certifiably insane vehicular mayhem in your life.
1. We miss Aaron Paul:
Now that we don't get to see Aaron Paul every Sunday anymore, there's a serious hole in our lives. So giving the "Breaking Bad" fan favourite his own starring vehicle was an obvious move to satisfy the legions of fans clamouring for more of the actor-formerly-known-as Jesse Pinkman. Granted, gripping a steering wheel and squinting real hard isn't the most demanding use of his talents, but it's still good to see Paul back onscreen again. And playing Tobey Marshall, a talented street racer framed for his friend's accidental death, Paul manages to give his character's admittedly melodramatic backstory more weight (not to mention more charm) than most other leading men they could've cast in his place. And whether or not "Need for Speed" is able to turn into a viable franchise, Paul certainly seems like a viable movie star capable of making the jump to the big screen.
2. It's good to have Michael Keaton back too:
Seriously, where has this guy been? Between "Need for Speed" and his recent appearance in the "RoboCop" reboot, we're clearly in the middle of a Michael Keaton renaissance. As the mysterious Monarch, an unhinged gearhead who (possibly?) lives in a lighthouse and (definitely) runs his own weirdly popular underground podcast and annual high-stakes illegal street race, Keaton is a legitimate blast to watch. With the guise of his video podcast allowing him to shout directly into the camera in between popping pills to keep his heart under control, he acts like a radio DJ on speed, and provides the movie with a largely unnecessary, but still entirely welcome Greek chorus.
3. It's not just "Fast and Furious" in 3D:
Yes, there are some pretty insane stunts in this film, including one or two that rival anything we've seen in the last few "Fast and Furious" movies (well, OK, almost anything -- nobody's driving a tank through rush-hour traffic). And best of all, they're all 100 percent real, thanks to director Scott Waugh's past as a professional stuntman. But "Need for Speed" doesn't try to just rip off the hit racing franchise's current formula of mixing flashy cars with even flashier action and call it a day. Instead, it's an intentional throwback to classic '70s car movies like "Vanishing Point." And fans of the games will notice that the movie's actually a pretty faithful adaptation, from the boilerplate ex-con revenge angle to the spectacular slo-mo vehicular carnage and, most impressive of all, the way it's every bit as frustrating and annoying when a never-ending supply of cops show up from out of nowhere to disrupt a perfectly good race.
4. It's pretty much car porn:
The movie's plot and pacing certainly have their issues, and "Need for Speed" plods along with a whole bunch of unnecessary set-up when it should really be hitting the ground running instead. Clocking in at over two hours is way too long for a movie essentially about smashing expensive sports cars. But oh man, those cars. From the custom-built Mustang that Marshall races across the country to the Koenigsegg Agera responsible for his jail time, these automotive specimens are the real protagonists in "Need for Speed," and are given the requisite screen time as a result. Case in point: we hear the Agera's name way more often than Marshall's love interest's (it's Julia, just for the record). And whether you're a car buff or not, all the horsepower on display makes the movie's racing scenes truly a thing of beauty. Well, unless you get motion-sickness, in which case, you'll probably want to close your eyes for that bumpy opening race through the mean streets of Mount Kisco.
5. Imogen Poots is severely underrated:
Though hopefully not for much longer after this. As with Aaron Paul, Poots delivers much more out of her stock love interest character than "Need for Speed" asks for. Which is certainly good news considering how much time the movie asks us to spend in a car with the two of them. Tobey's crew isn't half-bad either, apart from some clunky dialogue and being the most earnest group of onscreen friends in recent memory. These guys are so unfailingly supportive, continually risking their lives and/or serious jail time, that it's borderline unnerving. Meanwhile, the filmmakers have even managed to find a scene-stealer in Scott Mescudi (aka rapper Kid Cudi) who makes the most of his limited (and extremely confusing) storyline.
"Need for Speed" is far from a perfect blockbuster, and it's never quite goofy or fun enough to capture that same campy charm as the recent "Fast and Furious" outings. But if you can't wait until 2015 or just find yourself craving some old-school racing action, it still ought to hit the spot.
"Need for Speed" is now playing in theatres.