Film review: Need for Speed (12A, 130 mins)

Need For Speed: DAKOTA JOHNSON as Anita, DOMINIC COOPER as Dino Brewster
Need For Speed: DAKOTA JOHNSON as Anita, DOMINIC COOPER as Dino Brewster
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It’s neither fast nor furious – but it trundles along at a steady pace

Inspired by a series of video games in which players get behind the wheel of souped-up motors, Need For Speed accelerates smoothly into the slipstream of The Fast And The Furious and its high-octane pretenders.

Director Scott Waugh puts the pedal to the metal from the turbo-charged opening which establishes a rivalry between the cash-strapped protagonist (Aaron Paul) and his cocksure rival (Dominic Cooper) that drives the narrative to its predictably tragic resolution.

There are few surprises in George Gatins’s simplistic and linear script that casually revs its engine before delivering a high-speed finale that determines once and for all, who is king of the winding highways.

Aaron Paul attempts to jumpstart his big screen career off the back of the TV series Breaking Bad and he is extremely likable in a woefully malnourished role.

His deep, growling voice cuts through the squealing brakes and crashes of passing motorists, who are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Cooper is far less impressive as the slippery antagonist, whose greed, recklessness and overinflated ego bring about his downfall. He is insipid and not remotely menacing.

British rising star Imogen Poots continues her ascent with a spirited and eye-catching supporting performance as a ballsy car broker, who proves she’s much more than a pretty face.

The story centres on car mechanic Tobey Marshall (Paul), who runs his father’s garage but is struggling to make ends meet so he relies on prize money from illegal street races.

Aided by his team comprising Benny (Kid Cudi), Joe (Ramon Rodriguez), Finn (Rami Malek) and Little Pete (Harrison Gilbertson), Tobey is king of the road until a race against Dino Brewster (Cooper) ends in an inferno.

Tobey is arrested and sentenced to time behind bars for a crime he did not commit while Dino walks away untarnished by suspicion.

Two years later, Tobey is released and he swears revenge against Dino by competing against his nemesis in a legendary race organised by the enigmatic Monarch (Michael Keaton).

However, Tobey doesn’t have a car so he borrows a turbo-charged vehicle and agrees to take car dealer Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots) in the passenger seat as insurance. Sparks of sexual attraction fly between Tobey and Julia, complicating his relationship with old flame Anita (Dakota Johnson).

Need For Speed is neither as deliriously fast nor furious as the films it hopes to emulate. Director Waugh choreographs some slick set pieces including pursuits around city streets and a daredevil airborne escape.

However, under the bonnet, the picture lacks depth and characterisation, and the final 15 minutes feel like an anticlimax. Thankfully spirited performances from Paul and Poots compel us to buckle up for the bumpy if predictable and familiar ride.

Action/Thriller/Romance. Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Kid Cudi, Ramon Rodriguez, Rami Malek, Harrison Gilbertson, Dakota Johnson, Michael Keaton. Director: Scott Waugh.