The plot features Tobey Marshall (Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul) a street racing mechanic who is in danger of losing his garage after the death of his father. When Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), a guy from the same town as Tobey who has made it big in the racing scene, returns to town with not only a job for Tobey, but with his former love interest (who also happens to be his best friend’s older sister) on his arm, Tobey finds himself placed back in an old rivalry that ultimately leads to tragedy for Tobey and the members of his crew.
Looking to redeem himself, clear his name, and get his crew back together, Tobey embarks on a cross country journey, with a new soon to be love interest, to compete against Dino in the legendary DeLeon Street race, held by the internet sensation The Monarch (Michael Keaton).
I’ll start with the bad. Being honest, I went into this movie with low expectations. The countless video game movies of before have conditioned me to not expect much. From the plot standpoint, everything is pretty generic, which is a trap you face when adapting a video game. From the characters, to the token black guy, to the villain, to the plot, everything seems rehashed and hackneyed. Which leads me to the writing. The script is terrible, however expected, this was the writers first feature film. You’d think EA would splurge a little more when it came to hiring experienced writers. So much bad dialogue, shotty attempts at humor, mostly at the expense of Scott Mescudi’s character, a rushed and illogical love story, and the plot holes. I can think of at least 4 different problems outlined in the movie that were never resolved.
The acting from almost everyone was pretty cringe inducing. Tobey’s crew seemed cheesy most of the time, the monarch was overacted, the Dino seemed like he could care less about racing or cars, and the women could have made their attraction to the protagonist and antagonist more apparent and believable. Things got especially bad during the final race, when everyone was cheering Tobey on from various locations. As Tobey grew closer and closer to victory, his comrades reactions made the movie seem like an emotional feel good story, likened to a children’s movie such as Air Bud or Free Willy. Overly cheesy, and overly inspired.
Now on to the good. Director Scott Waugh knew what he was doing with the casting decision of Aaron Paul. Paul’s fantastic acting chops brought life to an otherwise dead script. His emotion felt real, and in moments he made you actually care about the rest of the characters. It is safe to say that Aaron Paul saved this movie from falling into the video game movie abyss of death, and added to the entertainment value. I can’t say enough about Aaron Paul, being able to do what he could and salvage that script is an incredible feat.
The cinematography was great. The movie was shot very well, with interesting camera angles that keeps you focused on the action at all times. From aerial shots, to drive bys, to in-car shots, the camera work stayed consistent and immersive. The stunts were spectacular and a lot of fun to watch, in conjunction with the camera work, the crew delivered a visually impressive stunt driving movie.
One of the biggest things I told myself before going into the movie was that it was a video game movie. It isn’t supposed to be based in reality, and because of that I was able to embrace all of the over the top action. Helicopters, “hot fueling”, huge explosions, a blind eye being turned to the guy that stole the military helicopter, are just a few of the crazy, out there things that happened in the movie, and if you go in expecting a video game movie, forgiveness of these ridiculous elements is easier. That being said, I feel like the spirit of the video games was captured excellently. The races felt very Need For Speed-ish, and the final race especially brought a huge feeling of nostalgia upon me, taking me back to the days when I was a kid, and would sit for hours in front of my computer playing Need For Speed III: Hot Pursuit, and Need For Speed: High Stakes.