The plot is actually quite ingenious really, it sounds insane, how on earth can you set an action film on a bus? we all asked backed in the day. Well obviously there are bits that aren't within the bus of course but the main threat of a bus that can't go below 50mph is a clever plot trick. That's pretty much it really, a bus load of stereotypical everyday commuters are all trapped on a bus which has a bomb underneath. Super cop Keanu Reeves takes on the job of saving the day from the terrorist Dennis Hopper. And at the end of the ride just like 'Hans Gruber', all the bad guy wants is some money.
Looking back at this its so so damn cheesy I can't believe it, how did we all think this was cool?!. The opening credits are some of the worse looking computer effects/text images I've seen, obviously early days back then and boy does it show when 'SPEED' pops up. I mean lets think about this for one moment, how can anyone take an action flick seriously when one of the SWAT guys is played by...Jeff Daniels??!.
The main action on the bus which takes up most of the film is undeniably enjoyable still. The whole idea is such a rush and easily translated to film, sure half the time the bus is clearly not going at 50mph (usually much slower) but it still comes across very well. You get every predictable scene you would naturally expect, the film isn't the most original in terms of characters. All the passengers fight amongst themselves, one is a gang member with a gun who of course shoots the bus driver which mean Bullock must drive. One lady is always panicky and slightly hysterical, one guy is mouthy, one guy delivers some comedic lines every now and then, there's a token black couple, a token Latino guy and Reeves of course totally stony faced and stoic at all times.
For the most part the film is quite realistic, but there are some moments which they could of left out. The bus jumping a big gap in an unfinished highway springs to mind which is easily the worse idea ever. The way they let the bomb loaded bus careen into an oncoming airliner once everybody is safely off, surely they should of tried to veer it somewhere so it wouldn't cause massive damage?. Of course we all know the reason is merely to show off a nice big explosion at the end, despite the fact in the films plot it may have caused more deaths. What about the guy pulling the plane in his little tug truck??...who cares its a cool explosion!.
While we all know that Reeves is the invincible turbo charged heroic cop who never gets tired or injured, he is acceptable for what he is. Bullock on the other hand is not, at no time did I ever accept the fact she could be driving this bus, there's just no way. Bullock is an annoying wet drip of a woman and shows it completely in this film, she flaps, squeals and rarely looks in control. They wouldn't have lasted five minutes in reality with her driving.
On the other hand Hopper is clearly having a blast as this pissed off ex-cop out for revenge. He's dodging around scowling and howling like no ones business, he goes for broke and totally delivers a perfect hammy over the top bad guy. This film really is amusing at times though, like in the finale when Reeves and Hopper are fighting. This young, tough, adrenaline filled ultra cop getting his ass beaten by clearly a late middle aged man who is half his size and can barely run.
The film does tend to lose its edge once the main event of the bomb rigged bus has been solved. The set pieces get more and more ridiculous until we reach the rather overly ridiculous finale with the underground train, which is clearly a model. The film in parts is plain stupid, comic relief from various characters along the way is reasonable I suppose but it all adds to the cheese n ham factor, kinda takes the edge off at times. But overall the film doesn't try to be anything other than a speeding bullet of an action flick that you don't really have to look too deep into. And not often does an action films title sum up the general content so perfectly. Still nowhere near on par with the classic 'Die Hard' but a decent rare original action film.
The action movie of the 80's is without a doubt 'Die Hard'. The movie that defines action in the first decade of the millenium change is in my opinion 'The Matrix' (I know it's made in '99 but you do understand I have to get 'Speed' here in my introduction and besides I first saw 'The Matrix' in 2000...). So what comes to mind when thinking of action films that defines and changes the genre for better in the 90's? 'Speed'. Fuck it, I just came to think about 'T2 - Judgment Day'...
So anyhow, 'Speed' didn't define action for the 90's. 'The Matrix' and 'T2' did a better job. But if 'Speed' would've been done wrong, the end result would've been terrible ('Speed 2, anyone?). Done well, action films can be a lot of fun (and thus forgiving some serious goofs and illogical happenings).
Jan de Bont directed 'Speed' as his first feature film. He had worked on several action films prior to 'Speed' as a cinematographer (Die Hard', 'Hunt for the Red October'...). What I've read from various film magazines and interweb sites, 'Speed' had some issues when going to production. First of all, I have to mention Joss Whedon's ('Firefly' and 'Serenity') name as he contributed on the script making it work better. He was left uncredited, though. But what worried me the most was that Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock weren't among the first choices for starring roles. Stephen Baldwin, William Baldwin, Arnold Schwarzenegger... "Get to da choppa!" just sounds better than "Stop da buzz!".
Glenn Close, Meryl Streep, Anjelica Huston, Emma Thompson, Diane Lane? Great actresses without a doubt but was their first intention to make the film about a group of middle aged tourists on a 20 mph bus touring Beverly Hills? Ok, that sounded very stupid and I appologize for my lame effort to be "funny".
Films like 'Speed' are inteded to charm the younger audience. I can't think of a better on-screen couple than Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. Both good looking and terrible actors (yeah, like she deserved the Oscar!). The acting is so terrible at times that you have to be set for the right mood for it to work. You can't see 'Speed' and wait for some groundbreaking method acting. This is supposed to be cheesy and fun. It's not like Jeff Daniels or Dennis Hopper would be doing a better job but I just can't think of any other for their roles. Hopper is perfect for his role as the villain (just like in 'Super Mario Bros') and in my opinion he is the scene stealer.
So what's the film really about then? Small pensions and cheap gold watches make retired cops go berserk and make bombs on elevators and busses while forgetting everything about police tactics and getting their faces turn purple of paint. That is pretty much the whole idea. So what do you do? What do you do!?
Just go see it for the fun and the hidden charm.
Howard Payne: NO! Poor people are crazy, Jack. I'm eccentric.
Speed is a pulse-pounding thriller and one hell of a fun ride. The greatest thing about it is that it doesn't attempt to be anything more than what it is. It doesn't mess around; it gets right to the point and doesn't deviate into stupid sub-plots. It's just a non-stop action movie and nothing more.
The cast for Speed is great. I really liked Dennis Hopper as the lunatic terrorist and Jeff Daniels as Harry. Both Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock both did really well with their roles as well. This is easily Jan de Bont's best movie. That's not saying that much if you look at the rest of his movies, but this is a truly solid thriller.
If your looking for a movie that explores humanity or love, I wouldn't watch this. But if all you want is two hours of action; I can't think of a better movie for you to watch.
June 30, MMX: Oh man, I never tire of this movie! I saw it again and it was just as rollicking a good time as it was when I first saw it. The story is really simple and elegant, the music really pumps you up and the explosions really land. I really like the villain too: he's a bitter bomb tech who, unhappy with his pension, sets out to score big money through the ancient art of hostage taking. Wasn't that how About Schmidt started? Classic 90s blockbuster action during the genre's golden age.
A young cop must save the passengers of a bus that has a bomb set to explode if the bus goes below 50 MPH.
High octane action-thriller with hotshot bombsquad cop Reeves battling wits and time with mad bomber Hopper, who's rigged a city bus full of passengers with explosives set to blast if it fails to keep at 50 mph! Far-fetched maybe, but non-stop thrills giving the genre a much needed shot of adrenaline and nerve shattering humor. Reeves is great as the buff hero, Hopper over-the-top perfect as the villain and Bullock is wonderfully spunky as the passenger/driver trying to keep them all alive. Eye-popping visuals and one helluva stunt involving a leap of faith. "Speed" kills!