Speed (1994) Directed by Jan de Bont. With Keanu Reeves, Jeff Daniels, Sandra Bullock, Joe Morton and Dennis Hopper.
“Pop quiz, hotshot. There’s a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?” – Therein lies the dilemma for LAPD officer Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) in this splendidly ridiculous slice of 1990’s Hollywood hokum.
Directed with great energy by Jan de Bont, Speed is remembered as one of the standout action films of the 1990’s. While it is a close cousin of the Die Hard series, it has enough of its own identity to be enjoyed on its own merit, even with Keanu Reeves sounding like he’s reading the script from a teleprompter.
Los Angeles. Reeves and his buddy-cop partner, an affable Jeff Daniels, are on the trail of a madman (Hopper) – an off-the-reservation explosives expert threatening to blow shit up unless the government pays him $3m. Fate leads Reeves to a bus full of commuters…and Sandra Bullock.
Despite a borderline ignorant amount of plot holes, there’s an irresistible exuberance to proceedings. This being de Bont’s directing debut (he was cinematographer on Die Hard), the film is imbued with a sense of pace that compliments its own title. Designed to add tension to the drama, the movie is lumbered with a cheap-sounding, repetitive music score – which is a shame, considering the overall buoyancy of the action set-pieces.
Though not managing to fully shed the air-headed delivery of ‘Ted’ Theodore Logan, Keanu Reeves musters enough gallantry to scrape by, even if he forces us to wince through much of his dialogue. Sandra Bullock, on the other hand, provides a welcome air of accessibility, between Keanu and a bus full of cut-out stereotypes.
After committing a brutal screwdriver-to-neck murder in the opening moments, the tone of Dennis Hopper’s villainous performance lands him somewhere in the middle of cartoon-baddie and deranged psychopath. In truth, despite a brief explanation that revolves around a hand injury and his time on the bomb squad, we’re never properly convinced about why he’s so upset. But then, once you start picking holes in the plot, you might not know where to stop.
Speed is intermittently stupid and often seems hell-bent on steering through all the genre clichés, but, if you’re in the right mood and can embrace many of the things that make it laughable, you might enjoy the ride. 3.5/5