NEED FOR SPEEDYou know when you’re casually walking down the street, and some lunatic drives past you at an obscene amount of miles an hour? You think, that driver is a moron, right? Well, Scott Waugh’s Need for Speed is a movie full of morons. These people just have a total disregard for road safety and it’s immensely irritating. Even if you can see past this fact, regrettably there remains a lot to be desired in this somewhat underwhelming thriller.

Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul takes on the lead role of Tobey Marshall, a talented racer in his spare time, who runs a car repair shop. However when he is challenged to a race from an old foe Dino (Dominic Cooper), a close friend of Tobey’s is killed during the contest, following a collision with Dino’s car. Tobey is framed for manslaughter however and spends some time in confinement. Upon his release he sets off on a revenge mission, and though breaking his patrol, he embarks on a cross-country trip alongside Julia (Imogen Poots) to take part in a prestigious contest, and seek vengeance against Dino in the only way he knows how – a street race.

Naturally, comparisons to the Fast & Furious franchise are inevitable, and when doing so, let’s just say this doesn’t come out on top. Need for Speed struggles from not truly knowing what film it wants to be. It’s a more sincere, seemingly poignant piece of cinema, yet it’s not nearly profound nor earnest enough to take seriously. On the other hand, it’s not ridiculous or illusory enough to be considered good fun either – which is where Fast & Furious comes up trumps. The latter has tanks and aeroplanes and all sorts of absurd, farcical additions that makes for an entertaining cinematic experience. This falls carelessly between, and though this may sound like an peculiar thing to say, but in order to be a better film, Need for Speed almost needs to be worse.

Meanwhile the car chases themselves are mightily impressive, making for some gripping sequences with really well choreographed stunts implemented. The film does feel humanised somewhat too, and in parts it’s slightly more intimate than other films of this ilk. Much of that can be accredited to Paul, who, as expected, is the best thing about this picture. He brings a fragility to the lead, and although he’s a real cool, racing car dude, there’s an everyday quality about his demeanour that works well. He does seem to be doing an irritating impersonation of a deep-voiced Batman though. Talking of which, Michael Keaton also has a completely superfluous supporting role. He’s like a narrator or sorts, and an immensely unsubtle one at that, effectively telling the audience what we’re supposed to be thinking and feeling, naturally sensationalising it all for cinematic effect. Conversely, Poots does little to offend, though her casting is somewhat unusual, and following on That Awkward Moment, if she’s not careful she’s going to fall into the stereotype of just becoming a generic, vacuous, British love interest in Hollywood movies – and she’s better than that.

Need for Speed is incredibly conventional and prosaic, with so little innovation in this title, as a film we’ve seen countless times before. The formulaic, over dramatised score epitomises this notion, as cliched songs play out exactly when you expect them to, manipulating the audience and reminding us what emotion we’re supposed to be feeling at that very moment. The film also struggles to reflect real life in any way shape or form. Of course this is just cinema and not to be taken at face value – but when a film is attempting to imbue human compassion and to trigger an emotional response from the viewer, it has to be judged accordingly.