Like porn, another art form where characters are blank audience surrogates, the video game version of Need for Speed emphasized action over individuality. The hero was merely called The Player. In the movie, whose script doesn't feel typed so much as button-mashed, Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) steps into the void. He's at least given a name, Tobey Marshall, but not much else. Tobey hails from Mount Kisco, New York, a motor-mad hamlet where he and his buddies (Kid Cudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez) rebuild cars at a struggling garage so decked out in Americana you expect a waitress to roller-skate out with milkshakes.
At night, the entire town heads to the drive-in to watch Steve McQueen's Bullitt before powering up for dangerous drag races through the apocalypse-empty streets. During a race, Tobey drives the wrong way on a highway, causes several bystander wrecks, and watches his friend's car flip over 12 times, tumble over a bridge, and burst into flames.
Not to be a killjoy, but if filmmakers are going to embed pixel mayhem in the photo-real world, then they're inviting us to ask if this shit is sociopathic. Regardless, we're meant to root for Tobey to avenge his sidekick's death by doing even more of what got him killed. Paul has proven himself talented at one specific character, an antic man-child who bleeds his soul on the screen. He's trying to prove his range, which in the Era of Gosling means frowning, crinkling his eyebrows, and glaring over his shoulder. Occasionally, he pants. The bigger waste is ingenue Imogen Poots as The Babe Who Likes Cars.