Tuesday, February 4, 2014

My Favorite Era: Speed (1994)

If Con Air is one of the more over the top Die Hard scenarios, Speed might just be one of the more subdued.  Oh, it's gleefully silly and over the top in places but for the most part, it's a more than reasonable premise.  Keanu Reeves plays ace LAPD cop Jack Traven who ends up having to stop mad bomber Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper) from blowing up a bus.  This is standard enough but the genius is in the details.  The bus is rigged to arm once it reaches 50 mph.  Once it gets past 50 it can't drop below that or it will explode.  It's a wonderfully simple, yet utterly diabolical plan and I have to say that this is the rare action movie that has a very well thought out and constructed screenplay.

The film is expertly directed by cinematographer Jan de Bont who made his debut here and he not only keeps the tension going for pretty much the whole film, but he also gets good performances from Reeves and Hopper as well as Sandra Bullock as Annie, an innocent bystander who ends up having to drive the bus after the driver is shot.  Jeff Daniels and Joe Morton also lend solid support in their roles as Jacks partner and commanding officer respectively.

The film uses the three act structure in a quite clever manner, giving us three different scenarios.  First act has an elevator rigged to blow which introduces us to Jack and Payne.  Act two is the bus stuff and the last part of third act has Payne trying to get away on the subway.  Everything flows together seamlessly for the most part (this isn't the sort of movie where it pays to over think things) and as I said, the tension is kept steady throughout.

Speed was one of the surprise hits of the summer of 1994.  Keanu Reeves makes for a solid action hero (the trick is to make his character stoic, then he can act just fine), Dennis Hopper is great as always and Sandra Bullock is simply irresistible.  The stunt work is great too with some real heart stopping bits like the bus leaping a gap in a freeway.  All in all, Speed is one of the best action films of the 90's.  Fast, funny and impeccably put together.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.