‘Need for Speed’ just as shallow, violent and fun as video game

As much as I want to hate a movie called “Need for Speed,” I have to hesitate. Yes, this film is ludicrous in its conception and irresponsible in the way it treats its subject.

Despite all that, it does show signs of actual life — in the stunts, in the performances, in the headlong rush to get to the next crazy event.

The movie takes its title from a video game (and of course from a “Top Gun” catchphrase). The cluttered plot has hotshot driver-mechanic Tobey (Aaron Paul) avenging a serious crime, for which he served two years in the pen, by challenging his nemesis (Dominic Cooper) in a legendary illegal road race. He picks up a car-savvy Englishwoman (Imogen Poots) for reasons that are too hard to explain, and they must get from New York to the race’s San Francisco kick-off in 45 hours.

This takes 130 minutes to play out, but we’re never far from a road race, a flipping car, or the sound of squealing rubber. Director Scott Waugh is a veteran of stuntwork, and he knows how to arrange cars in dangerous ways.

This is the most irresponsible thing about the movie. All this hugely dangerous racing is presented as a hilarious good time, and the innocent bystanders and police cars upended along the way are just so much collateral damage in the fun.

Maybe that works in a video game, but a movie has to create some semblance of a real world. So unless you’re a sociopath, watching this mayhem is occasionally icky. (Still-fresh memories of “Fast and the Furious” star Paul Walker’s death in a high-speed crash might also give pause while watching this rival to that franchise.)

And yet the zoom-zoom is often exciting, and Tobey’s posse of mechanics is wacky and loose. Rami Malek plays a grease monkey who has a memorable final day at a real job, and hip-hop guy Scott Mescudi adds some generic but lively chatter.

The most pleasant surprise is up-and-comer Imogen Poots, who is completely charming in a potentially nothing role. She easily outshines future “50 Shades of Grey” star Dakota Johnson, who actually does have a nothing role.

There’s also Michael Keaton, the organizer of the big race, who never leaves his radio studio/Internet chamber. Keaton yammers in “Beetlejuice” mode, apparently having already made the millions of dollars he’d need to carry on his car racing sponsorship.

“Breaking Bad” co-star Aaron Paul looks like a bowl of vanilla pudding that’s been left at room temperature, but all he really needs is a sub-Batman growl and a little attitude. This, he nails. “Need for Speed” is about as good as a really dumb movie can get.

“Need for Speed” (two and a half stars)

Despite the premise and the irresponsible action (the car racing causes lots of collateral damage, but nobody cares), this is about a fun as a really dumb movie can get. Aaron Paul leads a lively cast through a tale of high-speed racers doing illegal things; Imogen Poots is his charming co-star.

Rating: PG-13, for violence, nudity

Opening: Friday at Alderwood, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Woodinville, Blue Fox Drive-In and Cascade Mall.

More in Life

Take a closer look: Winter gardens share gifts in subtle way

Go on a neighborhood walk this month to enjoy the seasonal beauty offered by a variety of gardens.

Shopping cart showdown: Which stores have best food prices?

Jennifer Bardsley compares Fred Meyer, PCC, QFC, Safeway, Trader Joe’s, WinCo and Whole Foods offers.

The top 10 albums of 2017: From Jay-Z to St. Vincent

This year saw an upward trend in music industry revenue due to the popularity of streaming services.

Relationship do’s and don’ts: Lessons from 40 years of marriage

Paul Schoenfeld reflects on what he’s learned about relationships after four decades with his wife.

Great Plant Pick: Pinus contorta var. contorta, shore pine

What: Who is not impressed by the beauty and toughness of this… Continue reading

Red wine usually costs more, but you can still find bargains

Here are five good-quality reds that won’t drain your grocery budget.

Beer of the Week: Skull Splitter and Blood of My Enemies

Aesir Meadery of Everett and Whiskey Ridge Brewing of Arlington collaborated to make two braggots.

Lots to see in Upper Skagit, even if the eagles are elusive

A guided hike through a mossy old-growth forest more than makes up for a lack of raptor sightings.

Making it through the holidays on 4 legs and 4 wheels

1. Driving safety Here are some travel tips from the Red Cross… Continue reading

Most Read