‘Speed’ (1994) Review

There are some movies, like Speed, that are remembered more for its premise than what actually happens in the movie. I had never watched Speed until a few weeks ago and all I knew about the film was that a bus had to drive fast or else it would blow and that Keanu Reeves was involved in the mayhem. I actually forgot Sandra Bullock was in it, and she’s not even the most ’90s film star to appear in the film (hello, Alan Ruck and Jeff Daniels).

So Speed begins and I’m expecting some sort of immediate setup that the bus is in danger. WRONG! I’m subjected to some elevator hijacking shenanigans from Dennis Hopper (who’s performance in Blue Velvet is still etched into my mind). Reeves’s Jack Traven and Daniels’s Harry Temple successfully stop Hopper which is what triggers the main events of Speed. A bus gets blown up as a way to get the action started and from there the film moves at a brisk rate of 50 miles per hour.

Now I love a good action film with an equally good logic-defying premise, but some stuff in Speed just made me roll my eyes. I have no qualms with the movie until the part where the highway under construction has a piece missing and the bus manages to successfully jump the gap. Is this film trying to be Fast & Furious before Fast & Furious? There’s no way that bus was going to make that jump, and even if it did the impact on the other side would have surely brought the speed down to below 50 miles even for a brief moment.

But that minor nitpick aside, what always bugs me about these “I want this much money or I blow up/kill the hostages” types of film is that the action hero usually ends up costing the city more money in damages trying to stop the madman than the madman wanted to release the hostages. Hopper wanted $3.7 million, and that speeding bus definitely caused way more damage to Los Angeles than that (let’s not forget it blew up a Boeing 707 cargo plane).

Finally, after everything is taken care of and Keanu has made it to safety with Bullock, the two begin to flirt and Keanu reminds her that relationships that begin under extreme circumstances usually never last (something she had said to him earlier). She remarks that they better make it all about the sex then. It’s a good line, and definitely something I imagine got some chuckles in the theater. Only there’s one problem with this scene that bugs me. Daniels’s character has been tragically blown up not even an hour earlier by one of Hopper’s traps. You can celebrate all you want that the hostages were safe and Hopper is dead, but Keanu’s Jack should still be feeling some sort of remorse for his fallen colleague and friend. Speed can’t just be all about the high-paced thrills!

All of these nitpicks didn’t impact my overall enjoyment with the film. I found it to be way better than I expected it to be, and I was pleasantly surprised seeing so many familiar faces throughout the picture. The nineties definitely had some great film ensembles (Twister, Jurassic Park, Hook, Independence Day), and Speed‘s cast was certainly a highlight for me. Before you ask, I will not be watching the sequel Cruise Control because Keanu isn’t in it. Although I will say that I find it comical that Bullock has a new love interest in the sequel as it goes against her final words in this film about saving the relationship with sex. Maybe Keanu was having difficulties getting it up (though I think there’s a pill for that; now was it red or blue?).

There’s no rush to watch Speed, but if you find it on TV, a streaming service, or in the $5 bin I’d recommend it. You can certainly do a lot worse. Heck, just make it a double feature with Point Break. After all, two Keanus a day keep the doctor away.

What are your thoughts on Speed? I’d love to hear them in the comments, and if you’ve seen Cruise Control tell me if it’s actually worth the watch!

Author: Marmaduke Karlston

"Wait a minute. Wait a minute Doc, uh, are you telling me you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?"