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Speed
2 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Jan de Bont

Written By:
Graham Yost

Cast:
Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock, Joe Morton, Jeff Daniels, Alan Ruck, Glenn Plummer, Richard Lineback, Beth Grant, Hawthorne James, David Kriegel, Carlos Carrasco, Daniel Villarreal, Natsuko Ohama

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Speed (1994)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
January 3rd, 2008

Along with Die Hard, I would rank "Speed' as one of the best action flicks of the last 20 years. It is a product of relentless pacing, fast and furious, almost an uninterrupted series of incredible stunts and special effects. It takes the conventional elements of the genre and reworks them in fresh and exciting ways. Keanu Reeves is Jack Traven, a member of the LAPD bomb squad. His partner, Harry (Jeff Daniels) possesses all the technical knowledge, the brains to Jack's brawn. The opening segment has them in a high-rise, facing off with a maniac named Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper), who has hostages and plans on ransoming them for $3 million, but Jack and Harry foil his scheme. They are given medals for their bravery; Payne is injured, but returns with a vengeance, toying with Jack, wanting the money he believes belongs to him, and trusting Jack to get it to him, while saving the lives of more innocent people, this time trapped on a transit bus Payne has wired with a bomb; it is activated when the bus goes more than 50 miles an hour, and explodes when it goes slower than that. Payne is a former cop, a smart and evil man, with a seemingly endless array of tricks. He is always one step ahead of Jack, who must rely on Harry back at the precinct, who is desperately trying to uncover Payne's identity, and figuring out how to disarm his latest device.

Sandra Bullock is Annie, a regular passenger on the bus, who ends up driving it, weaving through crowded freeways, and even jumping over gaps, and dealing with a host of other dangerous obstacles that show up unexpectedly to slow the bus down. Jack tries some rather daring things himself, lowering himself under the bus, for instance, to try and disarm the bomb, and finding its elaborate construction too much even for Harry. One complication after another ensues, until the bus finally stops, and everyone seems to be happy and safe, but then we are plunged into a third and final scenario, where Jack confronts Howard on a subway train, with Annie tied up inside, and the two of them fighting on the roof. It is a relatively minor addendum to the plot, a way for Jack and Howard to settle their scores, as in no action movie can the villain survive. And Jack has ruined the large bag of money Payne has received, which drains the last of the man's sanity, if he indeed had any left. The bus scenes are the most competent and exhilarating, however, as the lives of the passengers are endangered, cops trail outside informing Jack of perilous problems with their set route, Jack has to figure out how Payne seems to know everything he is doing inside the bus, the way that Jack has to try and maintain order as the passengers grow restless and scared. It all works remarkably well. This movie established Reeves as a bankable action star, and this is one of his best roles, at least pre-Matrix.

Reeves has never really been a good actor, and he has appeared in a fairly diverse collection of movies, from this and Point Break to Bill and Ted to The Lake House and Feeling Minnesota to A Scanner Darkly and The Devil's Advocate, but he is effective and convincing here, cool and focused under pressure, who can dramatically improvise if the situation calls for it and so is Bullock, and the two of them have good chemistry, but it is Hopper who is the most memorable; few can provide more diabolical villains, and Payne is one of them, though he is less psychotic than Frank Booth in Blue Velvet. Director Jan De Bont has experience in cinematography, working on Die Hard, Black Rain, The Hunt for Red October, and Lethal Weapon 3, but also Leonard Part 6, one of the worst movies ever made, and a career shame for Bill Cosby, but that is one miss in a whole string of hits, so we can overlook it. As a director, he would follow this up with Twister, but 'Speed' remains his masterwork.

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