So once again we have survived.

Speed

tn_speedDo you guys know about SPEED? It’s like GRAND PIANO with a bus! An L.A. public bus that requires the very precise driving of not going below 50 mph or it will blow up. Even if it went through a school zone it could not slow down to avoid crunching the little ones under its wheels. That’s fucked up! I mean they don’t run into that problem in the movie but jesus, bad guy mastermind, think of the children.

It’s no mystery to us, this is the work of bomber-for-ransom Dennis Hopper (TICKER), who in a pre-bus sequence tries a similar job on an elevator full of Patrick Bateman types, but is foiled by Jeff Daniels (BLOOD WORK) and his young gum-chewing sidekick Keanu Reeves (MAN OF TAI CHI). This was after POINT BREAK but before THE MATRIX, so Keanu as the lead in a big action movie was still a new notion to the world. But what are you gonna do, the Jeff Daniels character gets shot and taken off the streets, it’s just not in the cards for it to be a kickass Jeff Daniels vehicle. I’m sorry.

Well, Reeves as Jack Traven is walking to his car when a bus blows up and then a pay phone rings. You never enjoy answering a call like that, you know? It’s gonna be trouble. Turns out it’s that madman, who lets him know to find this certain other bus to try to rescue. He complains about how many years it took him to set up the elevator job, but doesn’t explain why he could then set bombs on two buses overnight. Maybe the experience of working toward the elevator bombing paid off in less direct ways that won’t necessarily be apparent right away. Ya ever think of that, Hopper? Why do you need to be rich to feel good about yourself. You’re an amazing bomber! Isn’t that more important?

Anyway there’s this bus, pretty full of commuters, that Jack is told has the bomb on it, and it must be an express bus because he doesn’t know it can’t slow down but instead of rushing ahead to one of its stops he commandeers random-guy-in-traffic Glen Plummers’ car to chase it and jump onto it while it’s still in motion.

mp_speedThings do not go well. Let’s just say a guy on the bus accidentally shoots the bus driver, so aggressively friend-making passenger Annie (Sandra Bullock, DEMOLITION MAN) has to take over. This is a bus where the regular riders know the driver and some of each other’s names. I’ve never seen that but I’m in Seattle, not small town Los Angeles.

It’s a movie all about problem solving. Jack is on the bus trying to keep it at the right speed, but also not to crash, but also negotiating with the madman and coordinating with the department to get the wounded driver safely off the bus, then he has to convince them not to try to get anybody else off the bus because he knows the guy is watching somehow. Also he has to poke his head in the undercarriage to examine the bomb while talking on the phone to Daniels, who is outside using the description of the bomb as a clue in his detectiving to figure out who this guy is and try to find him. (It’s not like SAW, he’s not on the bus the whole time.)

The action comes with the driving, having to crash through the ol’ water-filled garbage cans (but no fruit carts), dodge traffic jams, do an impossible jump, plus some LOST ARK style climbing underneath the vehicle, and pre-FAST & THE FURIOUS high speed vehicle transfer, etc. It’s not as cartoonishly over-the-top as it could be, but the opening disavows any loyalty to gravity by introducing the boys on the way down from catching air, as if their car is being dropped in from the sky.

Of course there’s some drama among the passengers, but thankfully not too much. When Alan Ruck (later on Justified)’s panicked rambling puts everyone on edge it seems like Jack will give them an inspirational speech… but a scolding look is enough. The movie has an optimistic “we’re all in this together!” type of attitude despite its proximity to the Rodney King beating.

When I watched this I didn’t realize it was the 20th anniversary this summer, I just had been meaning to rewatch it forever. I was trying to figure out if it was a movie that people still considered relevant. I think everybody knows it, but I’m not sure how much people think about it or go back and watch it. So much of its success was simplicity and timing. It’s such a great gimmick, smartly executed. It has two young stars who were on the rise and a veteran counterculture actor regaining his cool because of RED ROCK WEST and TRUE ROMANCE and ready to chew up a fun bad guy part like this. It was probly too derivative to seem influential, but its existence definitely had an impact, at least for a while.

SPEED launched Jan de Bont’s directing career like a bus off an unfinished freeway ramp, but it didn’t land as smoothly as this bus does. He’d been a brilliant cinematographer on CUJO and of course DIE HARD. The surprise success of SPEED put him on the A-list for a bit, doing big expensive movies like TWISTER and THE HAUNTING but too much mediocrity spoiled his reputation. Holy shit, I either forgot or didn’t realize that he only ended up directing five movies. As of now his last directorial work was 2003’s LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE, which was poorly received but in my opinion very enjoyable. His second best movie after SPEED. I wonder what he’s doing now? He did somehow get an executive producer credit on Lee Daniels’ THE PAPERBOY in 2012. But that could mean it was something he tried to make into a movie years earlier, he didn’t necessarily work on it with Daniels.

Anyway, while he was having his brief reign as a top director his own cinematographer for this one, Andrzej Bartkowiak, branched off into directing EXIT WOUNDS, CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE and other ridiculous action novelties of the 2000s. That guy also did five theatrically released movies, plus a TV movie starring Ernie Hudson, plus has one listed as in pre-production on IMDb and still works as a director of photography. And maybe that wouldn’t have happened without SPEED, I don’t know.

I guess the more important career boosts went to the two hot shot screenwriters. The script was by Graham Yost, who went on to create and run Justified. The dialogue was famously given an uncredited rewrite by script doctor Joss Whedon. In retrospect it makes sense that he wrote “Pop quiz, hot shot” and alot of the other snappy lines. But I think it would be hard to spot without knowing it, it was however many seasons of Buffy the Vampire that developed his use of language and rhythm that is now recognizable sometimes to the point of being distracting. Alot of people seemed to give him a big share of the credit for the movie’s success though, and the juice from that got him high profile gigs like his disowned ALIEN: RESURRECTION script before really coming into his own creating those TV shows.

At the time, of course, this was labelled “DIE HARD on a bus,” much like UNDER SIEGE had been called “DIE HARD on a boat.” I know there has been some controversy around here about whether or not that’s accurate, so let’s analyze that again.

Honestly I don’t consider it that important of a distinction. I do like to delineate whether a DIE HARD type movie is more DIE HARD or UNDER SIEGE based on whether the hero happens to be somewhere and get involved in some shit or whether something comes up while in the line of duty. But really I consider all of these movies that wouldn’t exist without DIE HARD to be part of one subgenre of DIE HARD Type Movies. The main thing is that there’s some sort of a bad guy (usually called a “terrorist,” but in it for money, not a cause) taking control of something or other (building, train, boat, bus, airplane, hockey arena, Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Time Theater) and a hero, lone or with sidekick, that has to overcome great odds to save the day. In DIE HARD the odds are partly that he’s completely untrained and unprepared for this shit, in UNDER SIEGE it’s just that he’s outgunned and undermanned but obviously he’s Casey Fuckin Ryback so that’s not gonna be that much of a problem.

In fact, the existence of DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE expanded the definition of DIE HARD Type Movies to be even further from the original formula. Because I do in fact think of DIE HARDs 3-5 as DIE HARD Type Movies even though they don’t have the factor of the villains controlling an isolated structure or vehicle.

The major DIE HARD element that’s missing from SPEED is the one of the hero having to sneak around and pick off henchmen one by one to even the odds (or just to protect himself) before he gets to the main guy. I believe that element is present in all DIE HARDs, both UNDER SIEGEs, SUDDEN IMPACT, etc. Since the Hopper character isn’t on the bus he doesn’t need henchmen, he set up everything in advance, like the asshole from SAW.

So that’s very different. On the other hand, it has alot of similarities. Like John McClane he’s a cop whose mettle is tested by a condescending mastermind who’s threatening hostages to get money. Like WITH A VENGEANCE he’s singled out because of a past rescue. Like DIE HARD most of the movie takes place in an isolated location, although that location is moving at high speeds. Like DIE HARD he has limited resources and has to come up with creative solutions, and has to be daring about climbing on the outside of the isolated location without much in the way of safety equipment. Like DIE HARD (and the UNDER SIEGEs) he’s in communication with authorities on the outside who are trying to help, and also figuring out who the madman is and what he’s up to. Also like DIE HARD the authorities aren’t always making the smart move and he has to try to stop them from doing the wrong thing.

In this one he has a sidekick on the inside with him, sort of like what we got in DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD and A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD. But it’s closest to the first UNDER SIEGE because it’s a woman hostage who helps out and then they have somehow fallen for each other by the end.

In my opinion this has more than enough similarities to officially be considered DIE HARD on a bus, as long as you don’t take that description too literally. DIE HARD is like the Bible, you gotta allow it some poetic license in my opinion. But unlike the Bible we don’t need a separation of DIE HARD and state. I personally would not vote for anyone who didn’t like DIE HARD, and also would not be opposed to a Thai DIE HARD poster like the one I have being posted in front of court houses and what not. What I’m getting at is that SPEED is pretty good you guys, it holds up.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, July 17th, 2014 at 12:38 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

39 Responses to “Speed”

  1. Dikembe Mutombo

    July 17th, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    “I think everybody knows it, but I’m not sure how much people think about it or go back and watch it.”

    Shit, I do at least. I love SPEED. I think it’s lasted a lot better than TWISTER, which was a megahit but nobody really seems to revisit or talk about fondly (no offense to any Twistermaniacs). It may be my favorite entry in the DHTM genre, excepting DIE HARDs 1 and 3 obviously. The only knock I can think of against it is Keanu’s lead guy isn’t as memorable a character as a McClane or a Ryback, but the super strong supporting cast and abundance of solid gold one-liners I believe makes up for that. Though I also think one thing that’s unique about Keanu’s character is he’s not really a swaggering prick as was the custom for pretty much any cop action hero character at the time, he’s just a guy who’s real good at his job and treats everyone professionally. His straight man act is what makes all the colorful characters around him pop.

    I’m also surprised by Jan de Bont only having directed 5 movies. I think the thing is that I get him mixed up with Renny Harlin a lot, so I probably figured a few of Harlin’s credits were his.

  2. Jack Traven is a more stoic, company man-type hero than John McClane’s wise crackin’ renegade.

    But, that aside, can we acknowledge,please, that Jeff Daniels can do pretty much no wrong. What a resume.

  3. To quote my college roommate, “SPEED is so completely unbelievable! There is no way in hell that bus driver would stop for Sandra Bullock after he started to pull away.”

    Seriously, though, I do like this one. It’s ridiculous at times, but it backs that up with quality acting, exciting action and snappy dialogue.

  4. Vern, will you review SPEED: CRUISE CONTROL next? Jason Patric doing a franchise Action flick.

  5. Fantastic movie. Never fallen out of my favor or off my radar. Seen it at least 10x. Wouldn’t argue against SPEED being ranked one of the top 50 movies of the 1990s.

    I was barely old enough and savvy enough to see this in the theatre and man that early ear-stabbing scene probably traumatized me cuz I *still* to this day get creeped out and have to grimace every time I remember what Dennis Hopper does with that blade. No one ever mentions/remembers the earhole penetration, and I guess that’s a testament to the rad, relentless action that follows. The ‘splosions and close calls are so great & overwhelmingly entertaining that everyone forgets the nasty beginning of where we witness Hopper’s psychopathy.

    The final sequence atop the train (the beheading) should have the same gruesome effect, but it’s not filmed as clearly and Keanu saves the mood by cracking a pretty good joke so it turns out to be a happy moment instead.

    The Jeff Bridges death scene is another jolting showstopper of a moment, a heartbreaker — and that’s extremely goddamn rare, for a filmatist [and his/her writers & cast] to manage to include such an effective, emotional character demise in a big action movie. Bravo, guy who isn’t Renny Harlin or John McTiernan but does a great job trying to be (and sort of exceeding his peers in some respects), bravo.

    In conclusion it’s Sandra Bullock’s fault she had a stalker in her house a couple days ago. Dude committed a felony or 3 to break into her home because he was just trying to relive the magic of 20 years ago, a summer defined by the enduring cute-yet-attainable quality of a certain heroic Wildcat. Who can blame him? (other than law enforcement and our society)

  6. *Daniels

    Jeezus. I just failed my pop quiz hot shot.

  7. SPEED still holds up, in my opinion. It’s got an unconventional structure but a fast pace, and Bullock and Reeves have such opposing energy that they complement each other really well. Bullock for EXPENDABELLES is what I’m saying here.

    I do think that SPEED marks the dividing line between what I call Classic Action and Neu Action.

    Classic Action is defined by the personality of its central badass. It is personified by your Bronsons, your Stallones, your Schwarzeneggers. The plot in a Classic Action movie is unimportant. What is important is that your central badass is in there doing the thing that he’s best at. “What’s it about?” is not a valid question in a Classic Action flick, because it’s always about the same thing: “This motherfucker is kicking some ass in the way that I have became accustomed.”

    Neu Action, however, is defined by a situation, not a character. “What if there was a bomb on a bus and it couldn’t slow down?” “What if some terrorists took over Alcatraz?” “What if some spaceships blew up the White House?” The scenario is the star in Neu Action, so you can plug any currently bankable actor in there and it’ll work. (Sadly, I must admit that DIE HARD is the granddaddy of Neu Action.)

    The eighties were ruled by Classic Action, while the nineties were all about Neu Action. Neu Action in turn birthed Franchise Action, in which the star is the intellectual property the film is adapted from, which is just the natural extension of scenario-based action.

    The modern day has only one exemplar of Classic Action in the theatrical realm, and that is Jason Statham, whose movies are largely indistinguishable from each other and marketed solely on their star’s persona.

    The success of SPEED was the final nail in Classic Action’s coffin. No longer were action movies held hostage by the few stars badass enough to carry cookie-cutter plots on their back. With the rise of CGI and wirework, any actor could be an action star, provided the concept was easily marketable. The cult of personality represented by Classic Action was finished.

    SPEED is still good, though. It didn’t set out to kill the thing I love.

  8. The thing that always bugged me to the point of distraction is that all the cops are saddened at Daniels death for a sum total of like 15 seconds before they’re high fiving and quipping one liners.

    I always thought they should get a little more serious after shit just got real.

  9. Interesting that Keanu would go on to also be the star of the film that must be regarded as the most important dividing line of another major shift in action filmatism and how action stars operate. THE MATRIX was (I think?) the 1st major film that demanded all its cast undergo months of intense fight training before shooting, and now that’s become de rigueur.

    Oh and it also became an entry in Franchise Action (mainly because MATRIX was so successful, not as a cynical moneygrab birthed from the greed of producers and comic book property owners).

    Also interesting that Schwarzenegger starred in LAST ACTION HERO in 1993 (Jack Slater being the ultimate statement on Classic Action) and was also the star of a series that covers all of Mr. Majestyk’s categories (though the TERMINATOR release dates are spaced apart enough that it’s fair not to lump them together).
    And the one entry (SALVATION) (please stop throwing rotten vegetables at my face, sorry I acknowledge its existence) that doesn’t star him instead stars Christian Bale, who’s considered one of the top method-y actors and has undergone a shitload of Keanu-esque training to do action performances but has never achieved (in his action roles) what Keanu has achieved as a Neu Action guy or what Schwarzenegger has always embodied as a Classic.

    Keanu, Schwarzenegger, Statham — these guys could beat me up. No one’s fucking with them on the sidewalk.
    No one’s afraid of Bale (well, maybe that one camera operator guy), not even after EQUILIBRIUM or the BATMEN.

  10. The funny thing about Neu Action (which necessitated its evolution into Franchise Action) is that it wasn’t easy to sequelize. SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL illustrates the dangers of the same shit happening to the same guy twice. DIE HARD, the early ancestor of Neu Action, had to devolve into Classic Action (centering itself less around the scenario and more around the persona of John McClane) in order to become a franchise.

  11. Love how unassuming and clever this film is. The Whedon dialogue was extra fresh when it came out, and what movies since Speed have successfully put so many thrills in such a mundane setting? Or managed to come up with so much kinetic juice from such a severely confining situation? Tons of great moments I wish I could see again for the first time, but one that never gets old is the phone ring you juuust barely hear under the post-explosion inferno … until the ring builds, and you can’t ignore it … and then you see the pay phone, ominously reflecting the roaring flames. Serious filmatism.

  12. I never knew about the Whedon contributions (and maybe no one but Joss himself knows precisely what he added/changed in the script) until just a few weeks ago, I think, when I saw IN YOUR EYES and finished the final episode of that magnificent Girl Vs. Bloodsuckers tv show. I’d like to give him credit for the scene with the passenger who’s afraid to repeat “Fuck me!” on the phone.

    (I think Ferris’s friend Cameron instead translates it as, “Oh darn.” A lot of character background-essence is transmitted here, with this one facial expression and 2 words — this guy could be a cleancut Mormon rebelliously refusing to fit into the decadence of The Big City, or maybe he had a very strict father who slapped him whenever the kids didn’t end their sentences with “sir” or “ma’am,” or maybe he was one of those dweebs whose parents refused to let him watch R-rated movies, or maybe he did 3 years in the Air Force and feels guilty for his actions during Operation Desert Storm and now he tries to be a goody2shoes to atone for the red on his ledger, or maybe he learned the same lesson taught to Malcolm X in prison in Spike Lee’s movie. Loaded, economical storytelling in this scene.)

    ”He chose me over so many people that probably would have helped that movie get kicked off in a bigger way,” she says. ”He gave me the opportunity. So I’ve got to say, he had some pretty big balls. And I’m grateful for his large balls. And you can quote me on that. And if you can get a visual to go along with that quote, that would be great!”

    And here’s a great recent article for SPEED freaks or for anyone in the movie business (it’s a little bit inside-baseball-ish) or anyone with friends who are, like, production assistants or friends who are trying to be full time Hollywood actors:

    http://www.hitfix.com/in-contention/speed-20th-anniversary-meet-the-passengers-of-bus-2525/single-page

  13. I think SPEED really does still hold up though I usually rewatch it with commentary. Awesome writer Graham Yost (JUSTIFIED) gets a lot of good cracks in like how FOX sent the sequel’s writer on a luxury cruise for research while he had just hung out on a bus lol There’s also some interesting bits about the sctipt’s evolution like how originally Harry was the bad guy.

    And of all the great lines nothing comes close to

    “Oh… in two hundred years we’ve come from ‘I regret that I have but one life to give for my country’ to ‘fuck you’?”

  14. Whedon supposedly did a full dialogue pass. Yost, who arbitrated Whedon out of a credit, himself admits Whedon wrote “90 percent of the dialogue.” Which means the actual percentage is probably closer to 100. Vern’s right that it’s not identifiable as Whedon in the way Buffy-speak is, but his voice is still all over that thing.

    Apparently he also made Alan Ruck’s character less of an asshole villain of more of a lovable schmuck, and made Jack Traven into less of a superhero ’80s action hero type, and more into the sensitive 90s everyman cop trying not get everyone killed.

    Interestingly, Whedon’s own DIE HARD knock off, the unproduced (and fantastic) SUSPENSION (DIE HARD on a bridge), also featured a bit where the good guys loop a piece of footage to fool the villains as they do in SPEED… I wonder if he ripped off his own spec here?

  15. The looped footage is a rip from Danger: Diabolik!

  16. Ha, maybe Whedon ripped it off twice, then.

  17. In a reddit AMA, Graham Yost was asked about how much of the Speed dialogue was Joss Whedon’s and how much was his, since Whedon claims he wrote most of it. Yost replied “Joss says he wrote most of the dialogue for Speed? Jesus. He wrote ALL the dialogue for Speed (I think I have one line left in there; another writer maybe a couple).”

  18. I recently watched it again and yeah, it really still holds up. Also say what you want about Joss Whedon, but “But I’m taller” must be the best post-villain-death-zinger since “Let off some steam, Bennet!”. (Maybe it’s one of those two lines of dialogue that Graham Yost actually wrote?)

  19. KaeptnKrautsalat

    July 18th, 2014 at 1:58 am

    I guess my definition of what a “DIE HARD on a whatever” movie has to include is a bit more restrictive. Vern already mentioned the lack of henchmen, but there are a couple of other things:

    1. Keeping in it one location.
    In SPEED the first act is on an elevator and the last act on a train. Even in the second act Keanu takes a while to actually get on the bus and then he gets off early. So he doesn’t spend that much time on the bus, maybe less than half of the film’s running time.

    2. The right guy in the wrong place.
    The hero has to be at the location by coincidence, not because he or the bad guy want him to be there. That’s why I don’t think DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE counts as a “DIE HARD on a whatever” movie either.

    DIE HARD 1+2, UNDER SIEGE 1+2, SUDDEN DEATH and a bunch of other movies follow this formula, while SPEED has its own concept while still being influenced by DIE HARD.

  20. man, I haven’t seen this movie since I watched it on VHS as a little kid in 1995 (I remember what year it was because of where I lived at the time), I really need to see it again

  21. This was one of the best ever cinema experiences I’ve ever had. I remember being completely breathless throughout the entire film. Shit, I was but a mere 15 years old then.

    Anyway, this one of the top three mainstream American action movies of the 90s for me, (the others being Face/Off and Point Break). In fact, 90s action in general was incredible, clear, presice and largely practical.

    I would love Vern to do a run of reviews of film of this era; Terminal Velocity, No Escape, Retroactive, Blown Away, Cliffhanger, Drop Zone etc.

  22. One of Tarantino’s favorites from that particular decade. I also remember him riffing on the film’s famous line when PULP FICTION won best picture at the MTV Movie Awards.

    Mouth hit the nail on the head about the big death scene. Very effective editing and body language on Daniels’ part, as was the follow-up with Keanu losing his shit on the bus because on top of losing his friend and partner, now he has to be the brains as well of the brawn of the operation.

  23. Oh, I also liked Billy Idol’s theme song at the end. Nice dunderheaded rock perfect for a 90’s action film with it’s tongue sometimes planted in-cheek like this one was.

  24. The Original Paul

    July 18th, 2014 at 6:41 am

    I also was going to point out how “Speed” kinda marked a renaissance in terms of action cinema – we moved away from the big-budget fare of “Commando” and its ilk, and more towards the smarter, leaner movies like “Mission: Impossible” – but I think Majestyk put it better than I would have. Personally I always thought that was a really good change – hell, I can enjoy “Commando” as much as the next man, but there’s no denying you have to turn your brain off to do it.

    I was talking to one of my friends about this movie and said jokingly: “Well, it was a really fun movie, but I wish they hadn’t have had Dennis Hopper’s character kill that security guard in the beginning. If you’re going to have a surprise villain, having him kill off an innocent character at the beginning is a dead giveaway.”

    My friend’s response: “Huh?”

    (Well, I thought it was funny.)

    Dirk – Vern recently did “Drop Zone” (still one of my personal favorite retro action movies) and “Terminal Velocity” (also really good) I believe. I can’t recall if he’s ever actually done a “Cliffhanger” review.

  25. Retroactive is a fine Sci Fi film as well. I hope Vern reviews it.

  26. I liked this movie so much back then that it even convinced me to watch SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL in theaters just off it’s good will despite the fact that it looked pretty awful in the trailers. I wonder how much longer until it’s remade. Early Keanu action movies were actually pretty good. POINT BREAK Is still one of my favorite movies from the 90’s.

  27. I might be wrong but I’m guessing Joss Whedon probably came up with the line “In 200 years we’ve come from ‘I regret I but have one life to give to my country’ to ‘Fuck you’?”

  28. fun fact: Twister was filmed outside of my hometown (Ponca City, OK). The line for that thing was around the block for weeks. I saw it the opening weekend and had to sit in the front row. The vibrations alone made me puke in the bathroom halfway through.

    Speed was pretty much the greatest movie of all time as far as 10 year old El Randito was concerned. I begged my mom to rent it on new year’s eve and my parents and I screamed at the tv the whole movie. That shit was tense! I remember seeing an interview with Keanu for Street Kings, and he was saying people don’t really consider him an action star on the set of THAT ONE! I was thinking, ok, what about the Matrix, sure, but did you really think we’d forget about Speed, bro?!

    Also, what about Speed 2. Where were you when rush hour hit the water?

  29. The Original Paul

    July 19th, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Randy – “Speed 2” slipped so far beneath my radar on launch, I don’t think I even noticed it came out.

    I did see it later though, and… well… I really got nothing. When your bad guy is Willem Dafoe with leeches, and you still can’t rise to the level of “amusingly camp”, you’re in trouble. It’s one of those movies that I can’t even recommend for a bad movie night, because there’s nothing you can even make fun of there… it’s just bad.

    I did like the “Simpsons” parody where they had “Speed 3” set on a glacier.

  30. man, i saw speed 2 a long time ago, not the best, though UB40 appears if i remember correctly and the boat wreck was kind of cool, lets be honest. mostly though, that tagline is pretty priceless, one for the ages, and i do remember the time i saw that movie so i guess its applicable to my life and possibly yours

  31. Jesus, Vern, you’ve finally put me at peace with the “Die Hard on a bus” analogy after 20 years. DIE HARD as a biblical metaphor open to interpretation, that’s some profound shit, my man.

    I did have a chance to ask Yost once if he pitched it as Die Hard on a bus and he said no, it was a disaster movie on the movie, but certainly whatever gets people to notice is fine.

  32. I wonder how much the original could have benefited or felt watered-down from a PG-13 rating. If you took out most if not all the F-bombs and toned down some of the violence (of which there really isn’t a lot of), I think you’d still wind up with a film with the kind of praise it’s getting here.

  33. Always thought crazy Mega-man Dennis Hopper seemed out of place being cast in SPEED, but in a way that makes for a more memorable villain. It’s like he couldn’t shake sick-fuck Frank Booth from BLUE VELVET out of his system. Always good value, like his Mega compadre Cage.

  34. onthewall – Funny, I was just thinking about that as well – Speed came out during a time when PG-13 action movies (not involving sci-fi or fantasy elements) were fairly rare. Other than the Bond or Indiana Jones franchises, most action movies like Beverly Hills Cop/Lethal Weapon/Die Hard were pretty hard R’s – whereas Speed could have easily been a PG-13 with a few trims (due to the aforementioned lack of henchmen, and also I’m pretty sure we’ve seen gorier decapitations in PG-13 movies since).

    One confession – I’ve actually never seen Speed since the advent of widescreen TV’s, so I know I can’t properly grade it. All I know is I saw it three times on some old Pan and Scan VHS’s back in the day and have never really gotten the hype – I wouldn’t say it’s uninvolving but it definitely didn’t “click” with me the way the 80s/early 90s classic actioners do. Not saying every action movie has to produce a hero as memorable as John McClane or Martin Riggs, but Jack Traven’s an incredibly dull one, and (at least in P&S), the action scenes didn’t make up for it. I should revisit it again and see if I like it better though.

    It is, however, a freaking masterpiece compared to Speed 2. I try to find the good in a lot of movies (especially the other big bomb that came out that same summer that shall remain nameless), but Speed 2 joined Godzilla ’98 as my personal go-to arguments against “turn your brain off” (before Michael Bay came to fruition). It’s a tedious, indulgent, bore that almost seems like proto-Bay in it’s excessive, mind-numbing destruction sequence (admittedly the best part of the movie) and the neverending calvacade of obnoxious comic relief characters. I really hope Vern reviews it.

  35. Just one thing. Most of the people on bus I got into in LA knew each other and the driver by name so even though it doesn’t seem logical, it does happen.

  36. The Eastwoodian slip in this review has inspired me to watch SUDDEN DEATH again for the first time since the 90’s.

  37. Hey there terrific website! Does running a blog like this require a lot of work?
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  38. Might wanna talk to clubside chris about that it’s his area of expertise.

  39. I get pleasantly surprised every time I re-watch this, because I always forget that the concept of a bomb on a speed-limited bus isn’t the only showcase – the elevator sequence at the beginning is tense, and brilliant the way it sets up Hopper’s lunacy (who then virtually disappears off screen for the entire mid-section bus ride, save for a few classic Hopper quirks and growls), to then return like the Energizer Bunny for the third big sequence of the speeding train. Later summer blockbusters like CON AIR didn’t stretch their concept this well, and even MISSION IMPOSSIBLE saw fit to use the bookends of the elevator and train sequences for itself two years later.

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