How long will it be, I wonder, before the star of this game-to-screen howler loses his prefix?
This is the first film of “Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul” and it’s a racing certainty that six months’ hence he won’t be known as “Need For Speed’s Aaron Paul”.
Because when the actor sets down his final script, this high octane outing will be seen as a curious footnote, a strange detour from his natural metier – which is the kind of compromised human soul that he created so memorably in Jesse Pinkman.
Paul says of his character, Tobey Marshall, that he too is conflicted. Which is much like saying Simon Cowell is a Hamlet of indecision.
The blue-collar racer has issues, yes. But they mostly concern themselves with nemesis Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), the hoity-toity monied bad guy who bumper-nudged Tobey’s pal Pete into the afterlife to win money and pride but no friends.
Brewster does the crime but Marshall does the time and two years later he’s out of the clink full of thoughts of revenge that are best answered in the elite set piece DeLeon, a winner-takes-all illegal road race.
First he has to get to the starting line, with a bounty on his bonce. And for this sojourn, Marshall acquires flinty Brit Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots) as the “right seater”.
They make quite a pair and while the chemistry between them falls short, she’s a delight (as always), he’s a treat and the fact that their claustrophobic cross-country caper isn’t a disaster must have been an unexpected surprise to thenscript writers who get most other things wrong.
There is nothing wrong with this movie except for all the things that would be wrong with a movie born of a computer game.
The story, of racing and redemption, is slapped on clumsily between some throaty car-on-car action and when the story gives up trying, it’s over to narrator The Monarch (Michael Keaton) to tie up the loose ends with some laughable trowel work.
No point wasting time with development and denouement and whatnot when there are Bugattis and McLarens and Mustangs and Gran Torinos burning rubber in the badlands.
And the car stunt work is excellent. Director Scott Waugh has made authenticity his mantra and he’s done nothing here, he tells us, that wasn’t done on the ground. No CGI in sight.
Instead, there’s a lot of first-person action, some homage to the ’70s asphalt rippers like Bullitt and The French Connection, some Dukes Of Hazzard police baiting and a Stig or two.
If you came to see Tea With Mussolini, look away now, because Aaron Paul is braking bad.
Dominic’s a long way from home
Actor Dominic Cooper has come a long way from his days as a boy in Kidbrooke. Now a Hollywood regular, the 35-year-old gets behind the wheel of a Lamborghini Sesto Elemento in his latest movie, Need For Speed.
He plays arrogant, monied speedster Dino Brewster, arch nemesis of Aaron Paul’s blue collar underdog Tobey Marshall.
“He is a troubled soul who is extraordinarily competitive,” says the actor who got his big break in The History Boys. “Unlike Tobey, Dino comes from a background of privilege and was given every advantage in life. But he is obsessed with money and success which sends him into a state of madness.”
The Lamborghini is just one of his cars – there’s a high end Mercedes and a spectacular Koenigsegg Agera R. A far cry from his first wheels back in south east London.
“I drove a ’60s Austin Healy which had a hole in the fuel tank so I could only put £2 of fuel in and one headlight and no windscreen wipers. And I used to drive long distance. Everyone has to have first cars like that.”