Speed (1994)

"This is the wrong bus." - unnamed passenger on bus.

Can you really take "too far" too far?  The producers of SPEED don't
think so.

Audacious action doesn't get any better than SPEED, a non-stop
nail-biter about a SWAT-team specialist (Keanu Reeves), a brilliant
bomber (Dennis Hopper), and a bus rigged to blow when it slows below 50.
Cross DIE HARD with AIRPORT and you're got the idea.

SPEED stars Keanu Reeves, trying to look tough after his recent upgrade
from Most Excellent to Most Enlightened. The dude can't do drama, no
duh, but he's nimble enough for the job. (From BUDDHA to Bruce and he
even does his own stunts!) Bullock is a better bet as the poor passenger
with driving duties. She showed her strength in DEMOLITION MAN and,
here, she's the best bargain on board.

Dennis Hopper plays Dennis Hopper, chewing on scenery while spitting out
sentences like "Do not attempt to grow a brain." (Good advice if there
ever *was* any.) Bill Pullman-lookalike Jeff Daniels has a modestly
meaty role as The Partner, while T2 alumni Joe Morton plays the
commanding officer.

The script, by Graham Yost, has enough humor to keep you smiling while
you're sweating. Even better: the story never turns Reeves into a
wisecracking hero.  Thank you for small favors.

Of course, the best bursts of SPEED are those without words.

First-time director Jan DeBont-- a former cinematographer who handled
such heavies as LETHAL WEAPON 3-- gets everything right, from the
credits to the close. And those details! Watch for the reflection of a
burning bus on a pay phone. Or a banner beside Reeves that reads "To
avoid personal injury, do not stand in stepwell."

As the stunts get bigger, the film only gets better. Collisions,
explosions, and big-things-sent-flying. Even the throwaway stunts are
spectacular.  Blink and someone's stepping from a speeding vehicle.
Blink and someone's dangling from an elevator car.

Implausible-as-hell, but it works.

Credit a pace that keeps you from thinking; credit some stunts that just
can't be faked. Let ILM just *try* to duplicate the simplicity of Reeves
really jumping from car onto a moving bus.

(If nothing else, SPEED is a *great* exercise in wish fulfillment. Who
*hasn't* wished that they could barrel a bus around slow drivers and
through busy intersections?)

SPEED could be reduced. Earlier scenes run a bit too long and the ending
is clearly too much. But, that's the joke. The producers know that
*everything* in the film is too much and so they damn the torpedos and
take over-the-top right over-the-top.

Nitpickers can enjoy the plot-holes, while the more, ahem, "retentive"
viewers will have a field day finding the continuity errors that occur
in nearly every scene.

Except for the ending, all technical credits are tops.  Obvious
miniatures and mangy mattes undercut the film's next-to-last scene. But,
by that point, who cares?  SPEED is a full-scale tinkertoy set that
makes the beginning of THE FUGITIVE look like a little Lionel train.

Twenty years ago, SPEED would've starred Charleton Heston, and Karen
Black, and George Kennedy. No guns would've been needed-- but a plane
would crash, and a nun would sing, and the girl would get kissed at the

But this is the ninties and, with DIE HARD dollars still fresh on the
brain, set-piece *is* plot. Add some fireworks, and blow a few bombs,
and it's Jennings Lang all over again.

BOTTOM LINE:  The best ride of the summer, so far.  Fast, funny, and
furiously far-fetched, it's is the best reason to date to avoid public
transportation. Bring extra deodorant.

Grade: A-

Copyright 1994 by Michael J. Legeros

Home   |   Recommended   |   Reviews   |   Views   |   Letters   |   Links   |   FAQ   |   Search!

Please report problems to mike@legeros.com
Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros