'Need for Speed': What the Critics Are Saying

"Breaking Bad" actor Aaron Paul stars in the action thriller adapted from the Electronic Arts video game series.

Can Aaron Paul kickstart his own Fast and the Furious-style franchise with a car-racing video game adaptation? 

Need for Speed, directed by Scott Waugh (Act of Valor) and starring the Breaking Bad actor, hits U.S. theaters in wide release on Friday. The PG-13 title is based on the long running Electronic Arts video game series and the story involves a revenge plot that unfolds along with race sequences. 

PHOTOS: 'Need for Speed' L.A. Premiere 

The film is expected to earn $25 to 30 million in its debut weekend (see: THR's Box Office Preview). Below is a snapshot of what top critics are saying about the action title: 

The Hollywood Reporter's senior editor, Marc Bernardin, offers a mixed appraisal of the DreamWorks Pictures film. "When Aaron Paul’s Tobey Marshall is behind the wheel -- and a crew of stuntmen are wreaking some refreshingly non-CG automotive havoc -- director Scott Waugh’s movie is a blast." However, he notes: "ultimately, it’s not as much sexy-pulpy fun as the Fast and the Furious franchise, which leaves Need for Speed in the neon-bikini dust."

In a review that may appear in local newspapers nationwide, The Associated Press film writer Jessica Herndon gives a largely positive take. "Despite its clichéd elements, this adrenaline-fueled stunt fest is an unequivocal thrill that deserves to be seen on the big screen," Herndon writes. "Need for Speed is fiercely entertaining, loaded with beautiful cars, winding roads and racers in leather coats."

Meanwhile, The New York Times film critic A.O. Scott finds the title to be "successful on its own terms," mostly. "An energetic, unpretentious B movie — the kind best seen at a drive-in like the one in an early scene — it is devoted, above all, to the delivery of visceral, kinetic excitement," Scott writes. 

At The Boston Globe, Ty Burr gives a weary take on the car racing film, noting that its for fans-only. "If you know your muscle cars and Euro supercars and don’t care too much about other people, Need for Speed will definitely be your bottle of Yahoo," Burr writes. "Pardon the rest of us, then, if we look on these self-absorbed camshaft brats, high-fiving each other as police cars burst into flame and family minivans veer off the highways in panic, and wish them a speedy flat tire and a remedial driver’s-ed class."

Jen Chaney, appraising the title for The Washington Post, leads her review with a succinct negative take. The film "is a piece of auto-collision pornography that weighs down its car-flip-and-massive-fireball money shots with a preposterous plot involving vehicular manslaughter vengeance, a road trip that’s basically one long police chase and an illegal drag race orchestrated by Michael Keaton."

Betsey Sharkey, The Los Angeles Times critic, takes issue with a "full of potholes" screenplay. "No one is asking for actual logic in these films," Sharkey writes. "Part of the fun is seeing how far from reality the freewheeling stunts can take it. But a sense of the absurdity of the absurd is most definitely required too."