Director: Jan De Bont
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Dennis Hopper, Jeff Daniels
Plot: Hero cop, Jack Traven (Reeves) finds himself trapped in a deadly cat and mouse game, when a convict he thought he killed, traps him on a bus that will explode if it slows below 50mph.
When it comes to stupid action movies, Speed will always be up there with the stupidest of them. However, it might also be up there with the great action movies too.
After an opening scene, where Jack Traven takes out a bomber, the plot is sharply set up. That bomber comes back from the dead and seeking revenge on the cop that almost killed him: Traven! He plants a bomb on a public bus that will explode if it goes below 50mph. It will explode, if Traven tries to get a hostage off of the bus. After failing to stop the bus from activating the bomb in time, Traven is forced to stick to these rules to stop it from detonating. That is easier said than done, because Traven needs to handle rush hour, unfinished bridges and Sandra Bullock’s loose definition of acting.
So yes, all very stupid. But god, this film is so much fun! If you can get past the brain-dead nature of the premise and embrace the craziness, then you will enjoy this film. For a film that spends most of its running time on a bus, it does remarkably well at keeping you hooked and invested in the action. Sure, you cannot help but question the decisions made by the rest of the police force or get irritated at some of the hostages on the bus. Then there is the stunts that really question the laws of physics. The finale is probably one of the most outrageous action sequences I can think of off the top of my head, throwing science out the window, in order to send a subway train through a wall. But hell, you’re cackling like a madman (or like a Dennis Hopper) at the audacity of what you are seeing. Besides, Speed wears these elements of the film on its sleeve, so it is a little hard to really criticise the movie for these gaps in logic. If you read this review, or any review, get annoyed at the lack of sense of the premise and watch it anyway, you deserve to be disappointed.
The two leads are actors I don’t really have much time for, but they do alright here. Keanu Reeves might not be the best actor out there, but the script understands this (turns out Joss Whedon had a hand in the writing of this film). He is given a straight-talking cop role and some of the best gags in the film come from his monotone way of handling the situation. He calls Sandra Bullock’s character ‘ma’am’, during tense stunts and romance scenes. Bearing in mind this is the guy that came from the stoner comedy to end all stoner comedies, I have to at least applaud the fact that he pulls off action hero so well. Sandra Bullock is given a good chunk of the action to deal with, making her a little more than a screaming hostage. Her character is competent enough to make her more than that pretty face that hangs out by the hero for the action movie’s running time. Star of the show is Dennis Hopper, easily. Sure, a good argument to be made that this is serious over-acting, as he cackles manically as the villain called ‘Payne’, but it is the kind of performance a dumb action movie like this was always going to have.
It has its flaws. God, it has hundreds of the buggers. Mainly, pacing is the issue here. Like I said, for a film that is set on a bus and remained interesting, I was impressed. However, the running time starts to get stretched and the action needs to leave the bus. Therefore, we get an extended finale on a subway station that tries really hard to appear like a logical progression of the storyline. Everything is done fast, with ‘speed’, clinging to the idea that this film could survive outside of the bus. It isn’t necessarily bad, but feels so forced, it is a slight anti-climax. A clear sign that there is no way a sequel could be produced from this stor… ah!
Final Verdict: Dumb fun at its finest. A flawed film, but one that will have you grinning and proudly never falls below 50mph.