Speed shouldn’t work! It’s a movie about a bus that can’t slow below 50mph. If you told anyone that it would keep them entertained for two hours, would laugh in your face. Somehow though, Speed is one of the best action movies ever, let alone a solid entertaining film.
It’s all down to how the package is presented. It takes a very fine balance between the actors, the ridiculous nature of the story and how straight you play the events. If you decide that you are going to highlight how silly it all is then you will definitely get a B-movie with A-list stars. Instead, they play the threat properly, taking it seriously and giving us “Die Hard on a bus.”
The bus is the key too. The main plot device shouldn’t work but it does, and it works brilliantly. The problem of keeping a bus above 50mph is one issue but add to that an inexperienced driver, panicking passengers and various obstacles, from missing roads to traffic jams (!) and you actually get quite an exciting movie.
It was always going to depend on who was trying to sell the threat and Speed gives us one of (if not the best) performance from Keanu Reeves. After Speed, Reeves made the conscious decision not to do anymore action movies for fear of pigeon-holing himself. He shouldn’t have bothered – he’s actually really good in this. He rocks the appropriate white vest, throws himself convincingly into the stunts and can talk stony-faced and with pure conviction to the evil villain.
This is Speed’s biggest accomplishment. The villain is played with manic, comic-book style by Dennis Hopper. This is the kind of role he did brilliantly and he is enough of a threat both physically and as a crazy mad man to be believable. He helps sell the bomb threats, of which the bus is just one.
Every action film needs a damsel in distress though and this gives us an early role for Sandra Bullock. She is actually perfectly cast as the reluctant driver of the bus. She screams at the right time, delivers the right amount of dramatic speeches and is a decent love interest for our hunky hero.
The movie is less about the cast and much more about the action though and Speed is relentless. From a tense opening in a skyscraper to a decent subway chase for the finale, Speed doesn’t let up and there are plenty of explosion, gunfire and ridiculous stunts to keep anyone happy. As long as you can suspend your disbelief, and this will require you to throw any disbelief away, there is an amazing action movie here for you to enjoy.
Overall, Speed takes a simple premise, which feels like it has little of substance, and actually makes a fantastic movie out of it. We get explosions, stupid stunts and great, genuinely tense moments. Keanu Reeves demonstrates his strength as an action hero while Dennis Hopper plays the perfect villain. Speed shouldn’t work but is actually one of the best action movies of all time.
Rating – 5!
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)