Speed came out at a time when Mad Bomber Movies were all the rage. In fact, Blown Away and The Specialist were also released the same year. Out of all of those Mad Bomber Movies of the 90’s, I still say that Die Hard With a Vengeance is my favorite. Speed is a pretty close second though.
Brash bomb squad cop Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) foils the terrorist plot of a nine-fingered bomber (Dennis Hopper) who tries to blow up an elevator full of people. The bomber retaliates by fitting a city bus with a bomb that will detonate if the bus drops below 50 mph. Jack quickly hops aboard the speeding bus and has to figure out a way to keep that sumbitch moving in order to save the passengers.
I really enjoy Speed but it has a handful of debits that prevent it from really being a classic. Chief among them is the uber-annoying performance by Sandra Bullock as the whiny bitch that Keanu puts in the driver seat. While I didn’t mind her in Demolition Man, she got on my damn nerves big time in this movie. Keanu ain’t much better and his lack of charisma will make you wish someone like Bruce Willis was onboard instead. There are also some incredibly hard to take lapses in logic (like when the bus jumps a 50 foot gap) as well as a finale that’s nowhere near as exciting as the rest of the film.
All of these complaints are relatively minor in the long run because when Speed cooks, it’s dynamite. First time director Jan de Bont was the cinematographer on some of the best action flicks of the 80’s (including Die Hard), so it’s no surprise that he was able to helm one of the best action flicks of the 90’s. The scenes on the bus are relentlessly suspenseful and the clever script by Graham (
The huge success of this film made Reeves and Bullock superstars and de Bont became one of the most in demand action directors for the rest of the decade. Bullock and de Bont re-teamed for Speed 2: Cruise Control three years later. Whereas Speed 1 is highly recommended, that turd should be avoided at all costs.