Video game to film adaptations have not been of a particularly high standard to date. Though seemingly a natural progression to make, and an understandable move for filmmakers, the likes of Resident Evil, Tomb Rider, Silent Hill, Hitman and Prince of Persia have spawned relatively underwhelming productions. So now it’s time for Need for Speed to also gain it’s cinematic reimagining, though regrettably Scott Waugh’s thriller joins the aforementioned list of disappointments.
Aaron Paul – of Breaking Bad fame – plays Tobey Marshall, an electrician who owns a repair shop, whilst also being one of the country’s best street racers in his spare time. When an old foe, played by a distinctly slimy Dominic Cooper, challenges him to a race, he willingly accepts, though a close friend loses his life as a result of the contest. Tobey is framed for the murder and sentenced to prison, however upon his release he makes it his aim to gain revenge on his bitter enemy. While not a violent man, he decides to seek his vengeance in a street race, and so sets off across the country to compete in the most prestigious contest of them all.
Though Waugh has done a good job finding the intimacy in the tale, and very much ensuring this remains a character study of our protagonist, it is somewhat too solemn in parts to truly work. Not that being serious and sincere is a bad thing, but in this case it’s detrimental to proceedings, as Waugh struggles to find a compatibility in his handling of the film’s tone, which is too frivolous in parts to be taken completely at face value. The Fast & Furious franchise, for instance, excels in its absurd, farcical nature, and while this delves into such territory on occasion, it’s simply not often enough to be entirely entertaining and enjoyable, and not quite earnest enough to work the other way, falling carelessly between the two.
Nonetheless, the races themselves are brilliantly choreographed and the stunts are impressive. While Paul shines in the lead role, proving that stars of the smaller screen can make a big impact in cinema. However sadly it’s not a sentiment that extends to video games, as this is yet another conventional and ultimately unaccomplished offering in that department.