3 out of 4 stars
Of course this movie was going to be made.
It had to, because, well, that’s how the video game and movie worlds work. If a game sells more than 150 million copies, it’s probably going to go from console to the big screen.
Since Mario and Luigi got a movie and so did Pokémon, it was just a matter of time until we’d see super fast cars going all Daytona 500 as they elude police on city streets.
But Need for Speed is definitely was worth the wait. Aaron Paul, trying to emerge from his award winning portrayal of Jesse Pinkman on TV’s Breaking Bad, is Tobey Marshall, who, let’s face it, is the guy all gamers envy.
He got paid to drive really fast cars, hang out with a hot chick (Anita, played by Dakota Johnson) and watch cars get blown to scrap metal as he speeds from coast to coast. Strange, I never got paid a dime when I did that with my controller in my dorm room.
But is the movie based on an Electronic Arts’ video game that debuted 20 years ago worth three stars? Yes. Here’s why. It really succeeds in what it sets out to do. It combines awesome cars with a great story centered on Marshall avenging his brother’s death, putting his killer in jail and winning a legendary race.
Director Scott Waugh was more concerned with producing jaw-dropping chase scenes than he was with Oscar-worthy acting. With the exception of Paul and Michael Keaton, the cast if filled with lesser-known actors – Dominic Cooper, Rami Malek and Scott Mescudi – who complement Paul, who shines in his first performance since emerging from Walter White’s shadow in Breaking Bad.
In an era when computer-generated imagery is as prevalent in action movies as popcorn at the concession stand, Need for Speed is all man-made.
“We wanted our actors to do their own stunts,” Waugh said in a pre-taped interview shown before the movie’s advance screening on Feb. 19. The movie opens nationwide on March 14.
No CGI, no problem. It’s like a breath of fresh air.
Don’t go to the theater thinking this is the next edition of Fast and the Furious. It’s not, nor does it try to be.
It’s about a group of friends sticking together to right a wrong, even if it means landing in jail themselves or leads one to walk around his corporate office naked, which could very well end up being one of the year’s funniest scenes.
It’s about seeing a video game you played come to life, which is why you probably saw Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter in the mid-1990s before spending money on Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, Doom, Silent Hill and Max Payne in recent years.
The difference? Need for Speed is the only one worth seeing in the theater.
Jon Gallo is an award-winning journalist and editor with 19 years of experience, including stints as a staff writer at The Washington Post and sports editor at The Baltimore Examiner. He also believes the government should declare federal holidays in honor of the following: the Round of 64 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament; the Friday of the Sweet 16; the Monday after the Super Bowl; and of course, the day after the release of the latest Madden NFL video game.