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Speed (30th anniversary revisit)

June 10, 1994

So far my study of summer ’94 hasn’t found much excitement in the big blockbuster type movies. THE FLINTSTONES got all the hype but the ones I’ve been most invested in were quirky things by well known directors – SERIAL MOM, CROOKLYN, EVEN COWGIRLS GET THE BLUES. Now finally we come to a straight ahead action spectacle that truly delivered at the time and still holds up today.

SPEED came out 30 years ago as I post this, and it’s a classic. It feels like a very traditional studio crowdpleaser, but also not quite like anything else before or since. Twentieth Century Fox figured out what they had on their hands and moved it up from August to June, but no one else was sure at first if Keanu Reeves would be accepted as an action hero outside of POINT BREAK, or even if people would want to see him with short hair. So for many it was a surprise how big it became (5th highest grossing movie of 1994).

There was one 1994 action movie that grossed more, and it cost about 3 times as much to make. But especially compared to today’s action movies, SPEED wasn’t remotely cheap. It has great production value, it seems huge. There are numerous vehicle related stunts (stunt coordinator: Gary Hymes, THE UNTOUCHABLES, JURASSIC PARK, THE FLINTSTONES) so it feels very analog, but we may forget that there are also a ton of miniatures involved (and also some c.g. according to the credits, but I couldn’t tell you where).

It sets such an “oh yeah, this is gonna be awesome” mood in the opening credits – Mark Mancina’s score (which quickly betrays his background as one of Hans Zimmer’s “additional music” guys) plays over one long shot lowering down 50 stories of an elevator shaft, the lettering of the names made to look three-dimensional and parallel to the building, disappearing behind the metal beams. I’ve read that the model used for this shot was 80 feet tall. STAR WARS shit. (In fact, Grant McCune and his company did the miniatures, and he was the chief model maker on the actual STAR WARS.)

Although screenwriter Graham Yost (Hey Dude, Herman’s Head) initially wrote it entirely on the bus, and that’s the part our minds jump to when we hear the title SPEED, I think it’s kind of crucial that we also get a 23 minute opening chapter of elevator terror. Mad bomber Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper after a run of SUPER MARIO BROS., TRUE ROMANCE and RED ROCK WEST) first tries to ransom the $3 million he wants by setting bombs to drop an elevator full of office workers.

Unlike the L.A. of DIE HARD, more like the New York of DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE, SPEED depicts the authorities as highly competent, extremely on the ball, not burdened with stupidity, wrongheadedness or in-fighting, full of creative problem-solving and an ability to get all the weird equipment and people who know how to use it to the exact place they need it to save lives. In fact this even extends to the media – when Lieutenant McMahon (Joe Morton, last seen in THE INKWELL) needs someone to pick up the UHF signal of the security camera on the bus to record and then rebroadcast a looped video all he has to do is bark a brief order to a local news cameraman who does not pause a millisecond before literally running to do it.

It’s a preposterous but comforting fantasy. Just go with it. The camera moves really emphasize how awesome everybody is – police cars tear in, skid out, officers launch into action like rockets, the camera chasing right behind them, like we’re going too. Helicopters slide elegantly through the frame, apparently in shots with buses and cars, probly fake I guess, but looks real and incredibly choreographed. I’ve always loved that our two lead cops literally drop into the movie from the heavens, in such a hurry to get to the scene of the crime that their car has somehow caught huge air and there’s only time to show us the landing.

Gum-chewing maverick cop Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves, who we’ve already seen in EVEN COWGIRLS GET THE BLUES and LITTLE BUDDHA this summer) volunteers himself and his older partner Harry Temple (Jeff Daniels right before DUMB AND DUMBER) to go check on the elevator. Jack determines that the bomber is going to drop these hostages whether he gets paid or not and, demonstrating a knack for improvisation that will be important later, he finds some kind of crane on the roof that he’s able to drop down the shaft, hook onto a conveniently placed ring and hold the elevator up when the bombs go off. Of course, the crane then bends and breaks, gets caught on something, eventually becomes disconnected during a drawn out sequence of Jack and Harry pulling each of the passengers to safety with a constant feeling that they’re about to be crushed or plummet down the shaft. I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that de Bont has seen his countryman Dick Maas’ elevator horror movie THE LIFT.

Jack is also a good detective, so he guesses that the culprit would be on site and that he must be using the freight elevator. Sure enough they catch up with Payne, who seems to get blown up during the confrontation.

So we get this short disaster film and they manage to save the day, get medals for it, go out drinking to celebrate, then it’s the next morning and Jack is getting his usual coffee and muffin and in an amazing shot a fucking bus explodes down the block before he gets back into his car. It feels like we’re going to settle down for a bit and catch our breath and then – nope. While Jack stands next to the flaming wreck trying to process what the fuck is going on he hears the eerie sound of a phone ringing, and realizes what’s what. I love the shot slowly pushing in on a pair of pay phones, the flame reflected in their metal. This is one of at least three big spec scripts of the ‘90s (along with SIMON SAYS a.k.a. DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE and SCARY MOVIE a.k.a. SCREAM) where a mysterious mastermind calls up the protagonist and tells them the rules of the game his evil ass insists on playing.

So right away we’re on to that $350 million premise: the bus with the bomb in it that blows up if it goes below 50 mph or if they try to get any passengers off the bus. Jack commandeers a random dude (Glenn Plummer, MENACE II SOCIETY)’s Jaguar convertible (is the license plate “TUNEMAN” supposed to mean he’s a musician?), chases the bus, actually jumps into the bus, putting himself into extreme danger to warn them and help them find a way out of this seemingly unwinnable situation.

It’s easy to imagine a version of this where the passengers all argue for a while, whether out of the ‘90s image of L.A. as a place boiling over with racial tension, or just the conventional wisdom that that’s where you find drama. SPEED refreshingly avoids that kind of busy work, and about the only racial stereotyping is the character who assumes Jack is there to arrest him and pulls out a gun, which leads to the accidental shooting of the driver (Hawthorne James, PENITENTIARY II), and a passenger named Annie (Sandra Bullock, DEMOLITION MAN) taking the wheel. I think it would be better if the driver just had a heart attack from the stress, but they didn’t run it by me.

Taking the bus has been my primary mode of transportation for more than half of my life, so I get kind of a kick out of how little SPEED resembles the actual experience. It’s so funny to me that Annie and bus driver Sam repeatedly call each other by name. Helen (Beth Grant, CHILD’S PLAY 2, THE DARK HALF) also calls him Sam and later Annie starts calling another passenger (Carlos Carrasco, THE RETURN OF SUPERFLY), by his last name, Ortiz. I just have never experienced this. There are a few people who I see repeatedly but we definitely don’t know each other’s names, or make conversation, and I don’t notice other people doing it. What’s more, it’s established that Annie hasn’t been riding the bus for long, she just had her license suspended for speeding, so she’s gotten that familiar with everyone in record time. Jack doesn’t even ride the bus as far as we know, but he also knows a bus driver by name (John Capodice, Q: THE WINGED SERPENT, as Bob) when he’s getting his morning coffee, so maybe that’s just how it is when you live in a small town like, uh, Los Angeles, California. But I’m thinking it might be one of Annie’s talents to know people’s names, because at the end she asks “Where’s Payne?” and I’m pretty sure nobody ever said his name in her presence.

I think some of this is residue from an earlier draft when the passengers all had backstories to differentiate them. Sounds like too much to me. When you hear about the rewrites you start to appreciate how simple it ended up. There are so many ways it could’ve been too complicated or too contrived. For example, there was a draft where Harry was secretly the mastermind, and originally the passenger Doug (Alan Ruck, YOUNG GUNS II) was an asshole lawyer causing trouble on the bus. Uncredited script doctor and real life member of the fraternity-like group that inspired PCU Joss Whedon (after the BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER movie, before the show) wisely changed him to a harmless dorky tourist. Not every DIE HARD needs an Ellis.

When I wrote about SPEED ten years ago I went into the shorthand “DIE HARD on a bus” and tried to catalog how SPEED was and wasn’t like DIE HARD. On this viewing I thought about how in some ways it’s more like a disaster movie. They’re only directly fighting a guy at the beginning and end – the rest of the time it’s people working together to survive and be rescued from this out of control situation. It happens to be man-made and planned, but otherwise it might as well be an earthquake or a boat hitting an iceberg or whatever. Then I listened to an episode of the SPEED podcast 50 MPH where Yost kind of said the same thing. It’s an action movie that’s like a disaster movie, that’s why it feels different.

Jack Traven is very different from John McClane, and also pretty different from the type of action heroes McClane had initially seemed so different from. Admittedly our introduction to him as the guy who saves the hostage by shooting him follows in the LETHAL WEAPON Martin Riggs tradition, but while he’s on the bus he acts more like a sturdy rescue worker, coming up with plans and instructing the civilians in a reassuring way.

Whedon, who famously rewrote almost all of the dialogue a week before shooting, told In Focus that he made Jack less of “a maverick hotshot” and “just the polite guy trying not to get anybody killed.” And he told 50 MPH that the inspiration came from Reeves telling him the SWAT guys he’d met for research were “unfailingly polite” and called everyone sir or ma’am. So Whedon decided instead of a hotshot Traven would be “a lateral thinker.

That’s my impression of the character, though the one time he kills a bad guy he gets two different one-liners. After (30 year old spoiler) Payne’s head gets knocked off Jack has the extremely Whedony wisecrack, “Yeah, but I’m taller.” Then he goes back inside the subway car and tells Annie “He lost his head,” which is a straight up Schwarzenegger in COMMANDO line, don’t you think? Must be the only one Whedon left in.

I’m always impressed when an action movie seems to be working on a check list of modes of transportation. We have action in a car, on the bus, we have helicopters involved, the bus crashes into a plane, and then the last act is on the subway. Kinda funny that the bus jumps a freeway overpass that’s not finished and the subway jumps out of a tunnel that’s not finished. SPEED is a movie that says hurry up on that infrastructure!

Despite the propulsive nature of the whole endeavor de Bont does find ways to fit in little moments to breathe. One of my favorites is after the bus crashes into the airplane and explodes and we see that from different angles, at different speeds, and reflected in the windows of the LAX bus now holding the rescued passengers, we get to see them taking in the sight and contemplating that they were inside that bus until just a few minutes ago.

It’s pretty impressive how much of an impact the people behind SPEED went on to make. De Bont’s directorial career was surprisingly brief (five movies across nine years) but they were all big studio movies, he never fizzled out in ambition (just in popularity). Screenwriter Yost also did BROKEN ARROW and HARD RAIN, but to me he’ll always be the creator of Justified. Uncredited rewriter Whedon did ALIEN RESURRECTION and of course had a full-on TV empire starting with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then graduated to blockbuster director via super hero movies with THE AVENGERS. He was eventually exposed as a big asshole and a creep and apparently doesn’t have it in him to do the right wing pivot that would make that his new job, so he’s pretty much disappeared from public sight. But to say he didn’t do alot of good and highly influential work would be a lie, and he got started onto that thanks in part to the reputation he had from SPEED.

Meanwhile, Bullock was launched to superstardom, mostly in romcoms, was in a best picture winner ten years later (admittedly it was CRASH) and won an Oscar for THE BLIND SIDE five years after that. She’s had some good ones, like GRAVITY, but my favorite Sandra Bullock cinematic moment is from THE HEAT.

And finally, of course, we have Keanu Reeves. 30 years ago today Entertainment Weekly published an article with the headline “Keanu Reeves, the next action star?” And it quoted him as replying to that question with, “I don’t have any ambition to do that. I’m not averse to working in the genre again; it was good, clean fun. But my ambition is variety.”

Of course, he was able to do that, while also doing four THE MATRIX movies and four JOHN WICKs and directing MAN OF TAI CHI and being undeniably one of the great western action icons of our time. I’d say he passed the pop quiz.

Additional notes:

This is truly an all-star team of solid studio craftsman. You got de Bont, cinematographer for DIE HARD, directing. You got cinematographer Andrzej Bartkowiak, who shot TERMS OF ENDEARMENT and the at-least-good-looking L.A. movie FALLING DOWN. Editor John Wright had done CONVOY, THE RUNNING MAN and THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER and would follow this with DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE. Production designer Jackson De Govia was a veteran of SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE, RED DAWN and REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS, but most importantly had done DIE HARD. They also had the DIE HARD art director, John R. Jensen. This was Alexander Witt’s first credit as a second unit director, and his later credits include THE BOURNE IDENTITY, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL, AMERICAN GANGSTER, FAST FIVE, all of the Daniel Craig Bond’s except QUANTUM OF SOLACE, and FERRARI. And he directed RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE.

Michael Chapman was the cinematographer of THE LAST DETAIL, TAXI DRIVER, HARDCORE and many others. When he made his directorial debut with ALL THE RIGHT MOVES (1983), his cinematographer was Jan de Bont. Eleven years later de Bont made his directing debut with SPEED, and his cinematographer was Andrzej Bartkowiak, who went on to direct ROMEO MUST DIE, DOOM, STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI, etc. His cinematographer on CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE was Daryn Okada, who directed an episode of Scandal and 7 episodes of Station 19. Okay, I guess the chain doesn’t keep going. It would be cool if it did. I’ll keep you updated if there are ever any further developments.


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44 Responses to “Speed (30th anniversary revisit)”

  1. My last rewatch has been a while, but it is indeed a really exciting and well made movie. When it came out I admit to thinking that it looked dumb and resisted watching it for years. But obviously it won me over once I actually gave it a chance.

    Of course one could now make fun of Keanu saying that he “wants variety” instead of action, but that was 30 years ago and he tried a lot, then found his niche. One of the reasons why he is now more popular than ever (of course besides apparently being the greatest human being in Hollywood), is that he found his limitations and learned how to use his talents.

  2. Vern, I haven’t read your previous Speed review yet so you may have covered this but wasn’t Phil Collins up for the Hopper role early on?

    Also I think Keanu here and Cruise in Mission Impossible (De Palma) take the action movie all timer award for cool as shit haircuts.

  3. You know, the the thing that takes me out of this movie every time isn’t the impossible physics, or the Wedonesque quips, it’s instead that the characters are sad for approximately 3-5 seconds when Harry (and a bunch of other cops) dies, then it’s back to high-fivin.

    Not even a standing on the hill watching the funeral from a far in the rain scene.

  4. “SPEED is a movie that says hurry up on that infrastructure!” LOL, bless you for this Vern.

  5. Vern, I agree with you on the unrealistic bus relationships. I took the bus and then the light rail to commute for a lot of years. For the past several I’ve been driving, but when I was taking the bus I always said my own mother could sit down next to me and I wouldn’t realize. But I also have to point out that I don’t think you can use Seattle as a litmus test for how the rest of the country interact with each other in public situations between strangers. A few months ago a woman in line behind me at Starbucks asked what I was reading (I was reading on my Kindle app on my phone) and I couldn’t have been more surprised than if the coke display next to us suddenly gained sentience and asked me that. That is not the social contract we have in Seattle!

    It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this one, but I think I remember that the scene on top of the subway used CGI. I’ll have to put it on to see if I’m remembering correctly. And also because it’s just a really great movie.

  6. The most famous use of CGI in the movie was the bridge that the bus jumped over. It was a real stunt, done with a real bus on a real bridge, but they added the gap in post production.

  7. I rewatched this one last year, and it definitely holds up. There’s some real chemistry between Keanu and Bullock that really sells the romantic ending, even if it’s kind of unnecessary to the film. I think if it weren’t these two actors on screen, plenty of more people would be complaining about the tacked on romance.

    On the Whedon front, I don’t know if anyone read that final interview he did before leaving polite society for good, but my God, it was a doozy. Like, the guy wasn’t able to defend himself or take responsibility in the simplest ways that would reduce the harm the previous revelations did to his reputation. At one point he kind of blamed the women on Buffy for the fact that he slept with them and that it was something that he kind of had to do because he used to be such a nerd. I imagine that the journalist who got this quote had to excuse herself just so she could privately do a little fist bump and celebrate.

    With that being said, Whedon had a big pop culture impact, and I really liked Buffy in the heyday. I was watching the terrible Willow TV show, and it was trying so hard to mimic those Whedon shows, and failing completely. And it did get me thinking about the fact that he did have talent, even if he was an asshole.

    Sorry about the tangent. Getting back to Speed, it’s great to see a film that has the sort of limited premise that you could potentially do on the cheap but also have all the resources possible put into it. And while Keanu and Bullock’s characters get the limelight, Ortiz is essential for getting everyone off that bus alive. The dude is overlooked.

  8. Solid review for a great movie. A few years back there was an oral history of the movie (https://uproxx.com/movies/speed-20th-anniversary-meet-the-passengers-of-bus-2525/) that came out right around the same time the great “I was there too” podcast released a Speed episode (https://www.earwolf.com/episode/speed-with-the-passengers-of-bus-2525/). What became clear from that is that they all enjoyed working on it, became fans of Bullock and Reeves, didn’t expect it to be a hit, etc, but one of the bus rider actors has… an interesting memory of filming. Everyone talks about how much fun it was (despite being on the same set for days) but one of them (an actress, I believe) claims that they were on the bus when it jumped the gap. She states emphatically (and is supported by no one) that all of the extras were on the bus when it did the impossible (and CGI-assisted) jump. What a wild thing to claim.

  9. Vern – this paragraph:

    “Taking the bus has been my primary mode of transportation for more than half of my life, so I get kind of a kick out of how little SPEED resembles the actual experience. It’s so funny to me that Annie and bus driver Sam repeatedly call each other by name. Helen (Beth Grant, CHILD’S PLAY 2, THE DARK HALF) also calls him Sam and later Annie starts calling another passenger (Carlos Carrasco, THE RETURN OF SUPERFLY), by his last name, Ortiz. I just have never experienced this. There are a few people who I see repeatedly but we definitely don’t know each other’s names, or make conversation, and I don’t notice other people doing it. What’s more, it’s established that Annie hasn’t been riding the bus for long, she just had her license suspended for speeding, so she’s gotten that familiar with everyone in record time. Jack doesn’t even ride the bus as far as we know, but he also knows a bus driver by name (John Capodice, Q: THE WINGED SERPENT, as Bob) when he’s getting his morning coffee, so maybe that’s just how it is when you live in a small town like, uh, Los Angeles, California. But I’m thinking it might be one of Annie’s talents to know people’s names, because at the end she asks “Where’s Payne?” and I’m pretty sure nobody ever said his name in her presence.”

    Is one of the best you’ve ever written: movie reviewing, a bit of real life biography, plot description, some funny asides, social observation – all rolled into one. Classic Vern.

    it’s funny – I don’t think I’ve been on a bus since about 1994.

    Comments on the film – man I remember seeing this in the theatre – first run – and being completely blown away – it came out of absolutely nowhere – everything was a surprise – especially how great it was. Keanu had some action chops – POINT BREAK – but man this cemented them. Sandra Bullock also – she had some cred – but this really made you notice how friction’ appealing she was. Jan Debont also had some rep as a DP – but man, talk about a first movie as director. I miss how guys like DeBone and McTiernan really knew how to move a camera – the swoop, gliding camera moves in this one are fantastic.

    I think this was one of the earliest videocassettes I bought – and it was certainly one of the first that was letterboxed – a 1996 version that also included releases of

    SPOILER – The only thing I noticed (the first time I saw the film) the moment it happened, and I almost shouted out my annoyance (but didn’t want to be that guy) is that when Keanu caught up to the bus (and the bomb was still not armed because the bus had still not gone above 50 to arm it – was that he could have shot the tires out right then and stopped everything at once – luckily he had a brainfart and didn’t cause later we find out Hopper its watching from the hidden camera. I like to think this is a nod to the Hollywood scriptwriter convention of never having the cops call for help to stop something from happening – instead they single handedly tear ass off to stop it.)

  10. Incredibly, I’m going to see Keanu’s band Dogstar tomorrow night. Haven’t heard a note of their music but this review prompted me to stick on Speed in preparation.

    It’s just a really well made simple film that sticks to its daft premise with a completely straight face. And lots of show-offy 360 degree shots.

  11. Oh yeah. I got the bus to work for about five years and wouldn’t even acknowledge the people I knew who worked in the same place at that ungodly hour of the morning.

    That was the tagline they went with, huh? Isn’t rush hour traditionally the part of the workday with the slowest traffic? Were they going for an ironic tagline? To be fair, I can’t think of any better bus or speed adjacent taglines offhand.
    Yeah, I got nothing. I remember seeing this on opening weekend. The crowd was into it. Even back then, I was struck by how sleek and streamlined the movie felt. Like I had this heightened sense of the movie being a Hollywood production with capital “H” even with no real bankable names attached to it.

  13. @Falconman, all good options, but the best tagline could be from the Simpsons, if you recall:

    Homer: I saw this in a movie about a bus that had to SPEED around a city, keeping its SPEED over fifty, and if its SPEED dropped, it would explode! I think it was called, The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down.

  14. I guess my weirdest “Speed” experience was hanging out with a couple of guys in my youth, driving from one random place to another, sitting in the backseat. We went to a thrift shop, and at the time I was into collecting posters. I found a “Speed” theater poster for like $3, a huge steal, that exploding bus so tiny against the GIANT vanity shot of Keanu. We went to a few other places, and I kept that giant Keanu head-poster in the backseat.

    One of the guys said, “Hey, let’s go to a movie!” I arrange it so that I meet someone at the movie later, but that means I have nowhere to take the poster — which is laminated and flattened against a cardboard backing, so it is full size. So I have to take what is essentially a giant Keanu head with me to the movies. It was 1999, and we were seeing “The Matrix”.

  15. I’ve seen SPEED quite a few times over the years, and my opinion of it have swinged from terrific to stupid to OK and to What the hell is the point of the train sequence?! The best part is the beginning, with the elevator. I quote the guy who comments on others pressing the elevator button again, almost daily. Time for a rewatch? Also, I belong to the relatively small group who actually likes the sequel.

    But, more important, every single time Keanu Reeves pops up, I have to tell everyone who will listen, that he’s the only living actor who has killed Charles Bronson in a movie! That alone makes him legendary!

  16. Speed was definitely one of the highlights of summer 1994 – I still think it is holding quite well. It has a very silly premise and a lot of “impossible elements”, but it is done for the “greater good of entertainment”, and definitely delivers on the promise of its title. I must have seen it 3 or 4 times in cinema at the time – I think what I loved the most (and still holds up today) is that it never slows down… from the very beginning, it is moving at a speedy (eh eh) pace, and does not repeat itself over the many challenges faced by the different characters of the film.

    A few random thoughts…

    1. I had not read Vern’s old review of it until now – funnily, I re-watched Speed just a couple of weeks ago, knowing that this review would come in June. I used to see it as the “Die Hard in a Bus”, but when I re-watched it just now I actually changed my mind. This is not a “Die Hard” type of movie… “Die Hard” movies need to have a lot of henchmen killed along the way – so I agree with Vern here that this is closer to the disaster movie structure (ironically, the first Die Hard was definitely based on the disaster movie structure as well). Funny also to think that Speed 2 is more of a Die Hard type of movie than the first Speed.

    2. I think that what Speed got right when it came out in 1994 was to attract also the non-action fans… case i point, I remember seeing it with my mom who was definitely not an action movie fan. I was at university back then and my mom would visit me a couple of times of year and we would always see a film – drame type of films… but somehow she wanted to see this one too. Probably the only action movie I ever watched with my mom! (although we did see Never Say Never Again in cinema 10 years earlier, but she had a crush on Sean Connery so it does not count).

    3. 1994 was also the year of action movies with bombs – Speed, Blown Away and the Specialist were all that year… not sure where I am going with that though.

  17. I can attest that when one takes exactly the same bus, with exactly the same people, for a good period of time, eventually the regulars start knowing about each other (usually off-hours routes–early morning, mid-afternoon, late evening–usually spurred by one chatty regular getting in everyone’s business. I always assumed Bullock was supposed to be that chatty regular, hence…)

  18. I took a bus every day for five years, and my experience was like Vern’s. I didn’t even recognize the driver, who seemed to be a different person every day, let alone any fellow passengers. Granted, this was in Queens, where the bus schedule is more like a polite suggestion nobody expects anybody to stick to, and some days I just walked the last two miles because it was faster than waiting for a bus that might never come. Hard to work up a camaraderie in a situation like that. I do not think we would have banded together in the face of adversity like these Angelenos. In fact, I’m pretty sure nobody would have even noticed that there was a hostage situation going on until the bus blew past their stop. This is one of many reasons why they didn’t do SPEED in New York.

  19. I didn’t even recognize the driver, who seemed to be a different person every day, let alone any fellow passengers.

    MTA was/is fond of rotating drivers around (because why would being familiar with a route be at all helpful?) which is why I didn’t include them in my post. Also worth noting, such social behavior only applicable to long-route buses, rink-dink crosstown deals (m34s and the like) need not apply (since they’re basically gas-powered street cars)

    (shout out to the b24 and 32, may they forever keep Queens rent low)

  20. There are very few action movies that cut to the chase quite as quickly as Speed and then have the stamina to keep it up for nearly two hours.

    I wish I wrote that, but didn’t, it’s from a review from one of my old Empire Magazines.

    I watch SPEED every year (sometimes twice) and am yet to get tired of it. Truly the product of a perfect alchemy of a whip smart script that has all narrative flab expertly liposuctioned off, directed with surgical precision by Jan De Bont, peopled by characters you actually care about ( a movie this propulsive has no business putting a lump in my throat when Jeff Daniels buys it or wanting to give Bullock a hug every 15 mins), a scenery chewing Hopper and pacing that truly lives up to it’s title.

    The very definition of lightning in a bottle, because not only did they NOT recapture it for SPEED 2: A FUCKING CRUISE SHIP??? but manage to royally bollocks up everything that worked in the original.

  21. I was 7 in 94 and I remember Speed being like the first big action movie I ever watched. Like I’d seen Indiana jones and star wars and those kinds of adventure movies and shit but Speed was like a real arse action movie, like for grown ups. Probably a big reason I’m an action movie guy now, and on sites like this.

  22. Glad you said that about the bus driver. A heart attack would make a lot more sense. I get what they were doing but shooting him always seemed like a hat on a hat tho I wouldn’t learn that expression until much later.

    Also agree it’s more of a disaster movie than Die Hard movie. I live in LA and I’ve never ridden the bus but I would doubt any passenger bus ever gets up to 50 in LA traffic.

    I worked at a movie theater the summer of 1994z every time I ushered I saw the end where the subway crashes onto Hollywood Blvd. never occurred to me I was watching my future home.

  23. Random observations after my 30th anniversary caspering:

    – Man, the whole elevator opening is already a cool action flick in itself. The movie already delivers more thrills, suspense and explosions than most other movies within the runtime of a sitcom episode!

    – I forgot that Patrick Fischler was one of the elevator hostages

    – I feel like SPEED ruined action movie scores for a long time. It can’t be understated how omnipotent that “Dun dun dun-DUN dun!” theme was and I feel like until the early 00s every studio actioner tried to sound like that.

    – Annie is such a Karen! Jack jumps on the bus, identifying himself as police officer, trying to tell everybody that there is an emergency and she just keeps interrupting him with a “Hey! You are scaring the people here!” Not to mention that I feel like the only reason why the bus driver knew her by name, was that she just kept showing up every day, randomly unloaded her problems on him and he was cool enough to just laugh it off and find it charming, because he only has to deal with her for 20 minutes per day. Which makes her reaction to Alan Ruck (who in my headcanon reprises here his iconic role from FERRIS BUELLER) pretty hypocritical.

    – That is one hell of a debut for a first time director, but I guess DeBont learned from the best.

    – Oddly enough they are only on the bus for less than half of the movie

    – You have to give them credit for coming up with things to endanger the bus. One might think they would run out of things that would slow it down or at least make the whole thing less smooth, but even when they enter the airport they still raise the stakes.

    – Dennis Hopper spends most of the movie sitting in his hideout and talking to himself or the phone. Without the first and last act, this would’ve been a classic “Famous actor shows up for one day” DTV villain part. It must be said that because he is Dennis Hopper, he still delivers a really good performance.

    – The love story really doesn’t work. It’s a classic example of “He is a good looking man, she is a good looking woman, so just let them kiss at the end because it’s the rule” Hollywood bullshit.

    – We didn’t really get “action god Keanu” until MATRIX, but man, it’s really cool to actually see his face and realize that it’s him who drives a car in high speed through traffic or is hanging under a bus. I wonder if this was a response to Patrick Swayze doing a bunch of his stunts in POINT BREAK, while Keanu did not.

    In conclusion: Yup, absolutely holds up.

  24. A few years ago there was a documentary on Patrick Swayze I watched. I think it was on Paramount? Anyway, they interviewed a lot of his friends, family, and co-stars. One interesting moment that I still think about was Rob Lowe talking about how Swayze did his own stunts in POINT BREAK and how this was before Tom Cruise was doing the crazy stunts he’s now known for and he said something along the lines of take his word as a co-outsider, if you don’t think that had an effect on Cruise starting to do his stunts you’d be mistaken.

  25. Also I rewatched 2PEED for the first time since it came out on video and honestly, I don’t think it deserves it reputation of an unwatchable trainwreck. It’s obviously not as good as part 1. Not as fast paced and action packed. The humor, especially involving Annie, whose most annoying tendencies have been cranked up to 11 and is now basically the comic relief character and protagonist at the same time, rarely works.

    But it’s a mostly competent late 90s disaster actioner. Dafoe is as good as villain as Hopper and even has more to do then just talk to the heroes on the phone. There are some exciting setpieces and action beats in it. Plus a bunch of “that guy” actors, including Temuera Morrison and Kimmie Robertson. It’s an obvious case of “This would’ve been more popular as a standalone movie”. Not saying we would remember it as a beloved classic, but it’s quite okay.

  26. Well, CJ, based off of that, I’m happy to re-visit SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL REGULATES SPEED, IT DOESN’T HELP YOU STEER, as my last re-watch was more than a decade ago when I decided to give it another chance and nothing I saw invalidated my 1st watch opinion which was, starts off with a banger of a chase sequence and ends with a pretty well staged epic set piece of a cruise ship demolishing a town. Everything else in between required a crowbar to pry my eyelids open at it’s sluggish pace, criminal waste of Morrison and Bo Svenson, a narrative spinning it’s wheels (or it’s nautical equivalent) for almost an hour as characters you can’t give a flying fig about flounder in a doomed cruise ship making you wonder why you’re not re-watching THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE instead of this shit and it’s most egregious flaw: relegating the bubbly, vibrant, spunky Annie into The Girlfriend for the 1st half, and Damsel In Distress for the climax, needing some much needed rescue from Charisma Vacuum Jason Patrice.

    And we need to have an amicable parting of ways at the description of Annie as an annoying Karen, but I’ll own up to my own biases here. A burgeoning crush after DEMOLITION MAN had developed into some serious Bullock Infatuation after SPEED.

    Dafoe, as Dafoe usually is when asked to go full Manic, was good.

  27. Oddly enough I thought that the chase sequence at the beginning was incredibly weak, not just because we constantly cut to Annie being a “funny” reckless driver and annoying her driving instructor Tim Conway (Bless that man though), but also because it’s kinda…blah.

    And I don’t think anybody will actually love 2PEED. It has problems. It’s 10 minutes longer than part 1 and feels 1 hour longer and yes, especially the beginning drags. As a sequel to a near perfect action classic, it’s disappointing. But actually it’s pretty solid and not the unwatchable piece of trash that it is often called.

  28. Pac 2: Chomp Control

    June 13th, 2024 at 12:42 am

    I only watched CRUISE CONTROL all the way through for the first time about 2 years ago, I was kind of expecting to be one of its fans but as silly as it is ultimately I find it very boring. Unwatchable, maybe not, but a tough sit for sure. But that’s OK, I suspect sometime over the next week I’ll be posting a mild defence of an even less loved sequel that just got released on Blu-Ray in the UK, so I’m certainly not going to look down on any of you CRUISErs*, and I won’t have any Siskel or Eberts in my corner either.

    *To be clear the film I’m alluding to is not EDDIE & THE CRUISERS II: EDDIE LIVES!, although I like that one too.

  29. What an almost perfect movie. Saw the 4K 2 days and is a movie I watch at least once every 3-4 years.
    Vern just wrote the name without any extra info but if anybody is inclined, start listening to the “50 MPH” podcast. It is an ultra thorough deep dive into speed up to and including brand new interview with Keanu and Bullock. I’m binging it these days and it’s a fascinating look into a Hollywood filmmaking that sadly isn’t coming back.
    As to the CGI use, the hardest and most expensive shot of the movie is the one where we see the bus from a helicopter shot and the it pans and crash-zooms to later in the freeway where the part is missing and some birds are flying over it. Seeing it even now it looks totally real, the real camera movement and zoom sells it.

  30. CJ I think there’s probably an 80 minute cut of 2peed that’s probably a solid 3 star movie. If they can get to the boat crashing into the pier by 65 minutes that’s a lean B movie.

    It’s the delusions of grandeur that slow it down and, uh, sink it.

  31. The “Defending a movie that everybody believes is the worst piece of shit ever made, as something that is actually pretty okay but nothing more” problem: The more you try to correct the people who believe that you actually love it and wanna point out that you think it’s “just” a sold enough piece of late 90s mediocrity, the more you will sound like someone who actually loved it and believes it’s great.

  32. We just rewatched it too!

    I don’t mean to put this in a way that sounds like I’m dismissing Keanu because I love him in everything, but I do think he’s *shockingly* good in this film. I almost wonder if he had some sort of adversarial relationship with the director or something, because there’s this nervous energy to him we’d never see again since. Easily the best performance of his career I’d say, though not at all my favorite character of his.

    I’ve always loved Sandra Bullock, and her performance in this movie was more or less 9 year old me’s introduction to the concept of getting a funny feeling in your tummy because of a girl. So I might be biased, but years later I still find it to be one of her most charismatic performances. That’s why she knows everybody, because she gets a modifier of +12 to all her charisma rolls.

    (I do think maybe she knows Ortiz’s name only because they all got to know each other a bit by virtue of the hostage scenario, not necessarily because she already knew it prior).

    Hopper is so fucking delightful! That little moment when he gets distracted by the football game? Good stuff.

    No clue why Jack has to speed the train up at the end. Did he think there was another gap to jump? He puts himself, Annie, and the bystanders in way more danger by speeding it up!

  33. I bought the 4K disc of this last year and just got around to watching it. I was certain I’d seen most of this before, but it was completely unfamiliar, aside from a couple bits I’d learned through cultural osmosis.

    In my opinion, there is not enough bus. I will forgive the first half hour, because it’s pretty cool set-up, but that whole second act, from the explosion, phone call, and introduction to bus 2525, through to the end when they escape before it blows up, is one helluva movie. Tense, exciting, one long series of escalating and cascading problems and solutions. But it’s also lean enough to keep the movie focused on the issue at hand versus slowing it down for extra busywork. The action informs the characters, who in turn inform the action. I marveled at how they could’ve shot this, only to find out it was mostly done on a freshly-built, not-quite-finished stretch of highway. I marveled again finding out the movie came out just one week prior to the OJ highway Bronco chase it reminded me of.

    But then we hit the third act and the movie taps the brakes. It’s fine, pushing the movie even more toward the Taking of Pelham One Two Three vibe I was already getting, and beating the climax of Mission: Impossible to the punch by two years, but it’s a little too standard-action-movie and repeats some of the same beats from earlier– like how it’s a different out-of-control vehicle and Keanu has to floor it again to get through the blockage again, etc. I know the studio pushed for having more of the movie take place off the bus, but I think they were wrong. The bus is the movie. Maybe rewrite the ending so that Dennis Hopper is trying to escape with the money via the airport, so Keanu and Sandra drive the bus over there and use it to blow Hopper up?

  34. I agree that when the bus blows up, that’s the climax. The movie’s over. The subway stuff is cool but it’s a different movie.

    I think Hopper should have had his own bus that he would use to catch up with the Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down. It could be full of henchmen who could partake in bus-to-bus road war with Keanu and the passengers. They’re jumping from bus to bus, falling under the wheels, fighting on the roof. Both buses go off that big jump together but Hopper’s doesn’t make it. Then we do the big plane explosion as is. No need to bring other vehicles into this. This is bus business.

  35. Why not a single link to all the postings in this 1994 series? Or any of your series for that matter? It would be useful IMHO.

  36. It’s kinda insane that Speed 2 wasn’t on a train. That seems like a natural progression. Bigger, faster, etc.
    Has there been any kind of behind the scenes info on why the fuck they went with a cruise ship for the sequel? That seems like such a bonkers choice for a film franchise called “Speed”

  37. If I remember right, one of the proposed sequel ideas was about a plane that had to stay at a certain altitude, but Jan DeBont picked the cruise ship because of a recurring dream he had, where he was on a ship that crashed into an island.

  38. I’m presuming a train was out because of UNDER SEIGE 2. I know the SEIGEs were only about a third as popular as SPEED, but I still think that would have been enough.

  39. Ashamed of myself for forgetting I before E there, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t said infer when I meant imply in about 20 years.

  40. @CJ Man DeBont has made some amazing movies but I guess that’s why the only writing credit he has is speed 2. Probably a good idea not to let him do that again cause that was a really bad idea.

  41. In all fairness, the part where the ship crashes into an island is indeed great.

  42. Ya know thinking about it, it would be cool if the Cruise chip was just like, the opening twenty minutes like the equivalent of lift

  43. Man, this was one of my favorite action films as a kid. I recall watching this at my grandma’s house multiple times because it would be on. I even remember watching it on HBO multiple times. Hell, when it aired on Fox (during the days when network channels would do the “movie of the week”), I recall watching it, and then I dug up my VHS and put it on because I was in the mood to watch it.

    I bought the special edition DVD set last year. I was really in the mood for it but it wasn’t streaming or anything like that. It was the “Five Star Collection” series that 20th Century Fox (Or 20th Century Studios, as it is now known) would put out during the early-2000s. They had “Die Hard,” “Independence Day,” “The French Connection,” “Cleopatra,” etc. Hell, I have boxed set of the first three “Die Hard” films, in which “Die Hard 2” and “Die Hard with a Vengeance” had two-discs. But I digress.

    After nearly three decades, the film still holds up. I appreciate all of the practical effects more than ever before. I will admit that as a kid, I didn’t like how it ended with Jack and Annie making out, but because I saw the chemistry between Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, I was able to live with it as time went on. It’s a lot more than I can say about Jason Patric and Sandra Bullock in the sequel. Those two had no chemistry at all.

  44. I did always appreciate how Jack and Annie straight up admit as they’re making out that this is a dumb idea and they’re not really gonna be a good fit as a couple. It feels like an acknowledgement that this is kinda forced but also these two ridiculously attractive people have just been through some shit so why not?

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