Speed (1994)


Pop Quiz, Hot Shot

This is another in the long list of classic, action movies that I just never got around to seeing.  I’ve heard all about the movie and pretty much knew exactly where it was headed because of all the things I had heard about it, but I don’t think I had ever seen it all the way through.  I had just seen parts of it on TV.  So today became the day for me to sit down and watch Speed, written by Graham Yost and Joss Whedon, directed by Jan de Bont and Alan Ruck, and starring Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Daniels, Joe Morton, Alan Ruck, Beth Grant, Hawthorne James, Richard Lineback, and Glenn Plummer.

A man with a fucked up hand has installed a series of bombs on an elevator filled with high-powered business people in an attempt to ransom them.  SWAT members Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) and Harry Temple (Jeff Daniels) are called in.  They manage to get the people out of the elevator, and even find the bomber (Dennis Hopper), who promptly grabs Harry to hold Jack at bay.  Jack reacts by shooting Harry in the leg, causing the bomber to run and set off the explosion, killing the bomber.  Jack and Harry get awards, and Harry gets promoted to a desk job because of his injury.  The next day, Jack witnesses an explosion on a bus and gets a call from the bomber, who is not as dead as originally thought.  The bomber informs Jack that he has put a bomb on another bus.  Once this bus exceeds 50mph, the bomb will activate.  If the bus then goes below 50mph, it will go off.  Jack jumps into action, getting himself onto the bus.  His presence on the bus agitates a passenger with a gun, who then accidentally shoots the driver (Hawthorne James).  Annie Porter (Sandra Bullock) is then tasked with driving the bus as Jack tries to find a way to get them off the bus, and Harry tries to find out who this bomber really is.

Most of you have probably already seen Speed and have figured out your opinions already, but now I have one.  I liked it!  Sure, it’s a little cliche, a lot absurd, and most of the lines are cheesy one-liners, but it’s still a fun movie.  When the evil genius falls for the old “surveillance tape on a loop” thing, that was rookie stuff.  I was also never entirely sure about Hopper’s motivations to begin with.  He was a retired policeman, but I really don’t know what made him decide to kill people for money.  If it was only money that motivated him, it seems out of character for a police officer, and a little easy in the writing department.  Also, they go to the “road/track is under construction and not completed” thing twice, and that’s extra lazy.  The same goes for Hopper taking a hostage in the exact same way at the end of the movie.  A lot of the lines uttered in the movie are a little cheesy, but I thought some of them were pretty clever.  My favorite was the line delivered after Reeves kills Hopper.  ::SPOILER::  While fighting on top of the subway, Hopper is going off, saying “I’m smarter than you, Jack!  I’m smarter!  I’m smarter!” and then Reeves pushes Hopper’s head up into a passing light, decapitating him.  Reeves tops it off with “Yeah?  Well, I’m taller!”  I think we all saw the decapitation coming, but that is a solid line.  Granted, they kind of fuck it up afterwards when they use the way too obvious “He lost his head” line.  ::END SPOILER::  The movie is a solid action movie, through and through.  It starts out with solid action and doesn’t really waste very much time on story at all.  But the action is well done, interesting, and usually pretty spectacular.  They jump a bus, take it up on two wheels, and drag Keanu beneath the bus.  But it keeps the movie exciting, and that’s what I came for.

Generally speaking, I wouldn’t say I regard Keanu Reeves as much of an actor.  This movie doesn’t really change my perceptions, but it is the type of movie he works best in.  He can’t really seem to escape the fact that he always sounds like Ted “Theodore” Logan, no matter what setting he’s in.  But he works well in a big dumb action movie.  He can deliver one-liners with the best of ’em.  I felt like Dennis Hopper may have been a bit over the top in his performance in this movie, but he had a couple good lines as well, and it worked well in the movie.  I especially liked when Keanu was calling him crazy and he said “No!  Poor people are crazy.  I’m eccentric.”  That’s another good quality line.  This was one of the movies that introduced the world to Sandra Bullock, and that is always a good thing.  I wouldn’t say she was “hot”, per se, but she does cute exceedingly well.  I really liked when she hugged Keanu at the end of the movie with her hands cuffed.  I just wanted to protect her…and maybe have a relationship based on sex with her.  I was happy to see Jeff Daniels in the movie as well, but he was perhaps a bit underutilized.  The parts that he was in made me feel like he was every bit aware of how ridiculous parts of the movie were, and he probably was.

It took me a while to get around to it, but I’m pretty glad I did.  I probably would’ve liked this movie much more had I seen it closer to when it came out, but I feel it still holds up today.  The story itself is pretty ridiculous and occasionally feels lazy, but the action keeps the movie above 50mph all the way through.  It included a handful of the best cheesy one liners I’ve ever heard, and they were delivered by characters that were mostly over the top, but totally worked for the movie.  I dig this movie, and it will probably be making it into my collection pretty soon.  If you don’t keep a huge collection of DVD’s as I do, it’s available for streaming on Netflix.  Even if you’ve already seen it, you may want to rewatch it, and I don’t think you’d be very disappointed … unless (from what I hear) you watch Speed 2 instead.  Speed gets “Don’t get dead” out of “We’re leaking gas?”

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!

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