|This movie won Oscars for Best Sound and Sound Effects Editing.||
'Speed' (R)By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 10, 1994
In "Speed," SWAT cop Keanu Reeves finds himself aboard a speeding bus that's wired to explode as soon as the speedometer dips below 50 mph. His nail-biting experience takes place on the L.A. freeway, an obstacle course rigged with passing vehicles, traffic jams and, at one point, a 50-foot gap in the highway that requires an Evel Knievel leap of faith.
If you're looking for a touching drama that plumbs the subtler recesses of the human spirit, you are in the wrong lane. Please pull over until this derivative juggernaut passes by.
"Speed," directed by Jan De Bont (cinematographer on "Die Hard" and "Lethal Weapon 3"), isn't a movie so much as a driver's-seat video game. Instead of issuing tickets for this film, Twentieth Century Fox should provide the audience with quarters: Insert 50 cents now to see if Keanu (and involuntary bus-driver Sandra Bullock) make that 50-foot plunge. Pop in another two quarters to see if he can slither under the bus and defuse the bomb.
One contrived day, Reeves and bomb disposal expert Jeff Daniels respond to an elaborate act of sabotage, in which 13 elevator-trapped passengers are set to plummet to certain death unless ransom demands are met. As we learn right away, this is the work of Dennis Hopper, a disgruntled sociopath who seems to have watched "In the Line of Fire" one too many times.
When Reeves saves the day, Hopper hatches his bus-bomb plan, calculated to get his money and revenge on Reeves. In the crazy commuter trip that follows, Reeves negotiates with Hopper by mobile phone, tries to calm the panicked passengers and, when the driver is accidentally injured, orders passenger Bullock to hold the wheel.
It's hard not to get mechanically caught up in this loaded situation. That bomb's obviously going to go off sometime, and there's a bus load of one-dimensional lives on the line. But the character interaction among Reeves, Bullock, Daniels and Hopper amounts to a moving violation. And in action terms, there isn't a moment in this hackneyed melodrama that De Bont and scriptwriter Graham Yost haven't lifted from other, more successful movies, including "In the Line of Fire," "Die Hard" (both 1 and 2), "The Fugitive" and the Gene Hackman runaway-train movie, "Narrow Margin."
The plot becomes so overextended, as Reeves and Hopper wage their endless public transportation battle, even the hardest Die-Harders will consider leaping off way before the final stop.
"Speed" contains violence and profanity.
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