Very Nicely Done
By virtue of its originality, Speed offers something quite different for the die-hard action fan. Quite simply, the film has such great pacing, you may wonder who to congratulate first: director Jan de Bont or editor John Wright. Both deserve kudos for showing the audience a tremendous time at the movies.
Mad bomber Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper) has rigged a bus to explode. Once the vehicle reaches 50mph, the bomb activates itself. To slow down would be very bad news for the hostages as well as LAPD’s finest, Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves).
Hopper boasts a range of memorable performances, from Easy Rider to Blue Velvet. And yet, Speed may be the film this actor is remembered for. He’s terrific, relishing every second of pressure that he exerts over the cop. My favourite quote has to be: “Do not attempt to grow a brain!”
Right away, Speed moves quickly, the bus becoming an unstoppable force on the highway. When obstacles are encountered, quick action must be taken. Mark Mancina’s score kicks in with ferocity as bus 2525 dodges on-coming traffic in an attempt to get in the clear.
As for Reeves, he’s very good. With every emotional nuance whether it involves frustration, agony, hope or fear, he never pulls his punches. Instead, his work revolves around a raw, bare-bones ideology. Take that away and there’s fragility, hanging on a wire – hoping not to fall off. Also, it’s remarkable acting of the first degree.
With her “stay on or get off” line, Sandra Bullock represents female assertiveness, much stronger than her work in Demolition Man.
Die Hard opened the curtain for innovation in action-packed storytelling but Speed coins a new language. Whereas the former played in one location, the latter takes in the sights and sounds of Los Angeles.
So forget best action thriller of 1994, Speed proves to be the definitive action movie of that entire decade.
(Released by 20th Century Fox and rated "R" by MPAA.)