Breaking Bad fans will tell you that Aaron Paul is a talented actor, but it’s hard to believe watching this rubber-burning actioner inspired by the Need for Speed video games. He looks visibly uncomfortable playing street car racer Tobey Marshall, who foolishly does business with leather-clad rival Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper, channelling the cast of Grease). After a spell in prison, Tobey emerges with revenge on his mind and accepts a challenge to drive a multi-million-dollar Ford Mustang to San Francisco. There he will compete in a furrowed-browed race with the U.S.’s best drivers.
Mercifully, the plot requires a love interest, chatty Brit Julia (Imogen Poots), to come along for the ride. Julia works for the car’s owner and is protecting his interests, or something equally spurious. Flirty-eyed Poots could create chemistry with a plank of wood, and manages to wring a few laughs out of the script.
And so, after a creaky, clichéd start, Need for Speed picks up a bit. The script is still as corny as hell, but the chase scenes are pretty spectacular, whether Tobey is just showing off, trying to scare his passenger or shake off the bad guys. Audiences purely interested in the cars won’t be disappointed—frankly, they’re sexier than the cast. But anyone looking for a story, or a performance as impressive as Jesse from Breaking Bad, will be. And no, Aaron, lowering your voice like Vin Diesel doesn’t make you an action hero.