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  Speed Rush Hour
Year: 1994
Director: Jan de Bont
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock, Joe Morton, Jeff Daniels, Alan Ruck, Glenn Plummer, Richard Lineback, Beth Grant, Hawthorne James, Carlos Carrasco, David Kreigel, Natsuko Ohama, Daniel Villarreal, Simone Gad, Patrick Fischler, Richard Schiff
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 3 votes)
Review: It seems like just another ordinary day in Los Angeles, as in this office block an official notices a man performing maintenance on one of the elevator shafts, even though he has not heard of any order going through to that effect. He approaches the engineer and asks to see his documents, but gets more than he bargained for when a knife is driven into his head, killing him; this is because the maintenance man is actually psychopathic terrorist (Dennis Hopper) and he has worked out a way to secure a grand three and a quarter million dollars from the city. But there's a cop, Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves), who might have something to say about that...

Nobody foresaw Speed as perhaps the biggest, not to mention best, blockbuster of its year, or even the whole of its decade, but for a film that suffered no pretensions and did exactly what the title stated, that is provide high velocity action for just under two hours, there were few complaining when it delivered on that promise. It was the ultimate in high concept moviemaking, to whit: there is a bomb on the bus, if it goes under fifty miles per hour then it explodes, so what do you do to stop it? Well, not so much what do you do, but what does Keanu Reeves do, as he was our hero for the duration, again defying the odds with his lack of acting depth by proving perfect for a certain type of role.

Besides, who wanted great acting in a film like Speed? And yet not one actor hit a wrong note, from Hopper cackling and gloating as his plan goes into fruition, to the support with Jeff Daniels doing his best friend of the leading man act again and carrying it off with skill. But the performer who really broke through with this was Sandra Bullock, who had captured attention the year before with her perky turn in Demolition Man, but here consolidated her freshly-awarded movie star status in making audiences warm to her, for this and for many films to come. She played Annie Porter, who happens to be on the bus in question because her driving license has been suspended - for speeding, naturally.

Hopper's cunning madman has seen his first plan, that of holding an elevator full of executives to ransom, foiled by Jack, so he's not in the best of moods as all he can think about is the money he believes he deserves. Therefore he puts plan B into action when the whole bus thing seems as if it might prove more successful, but as with many a movie madman he makes the mistake of telling the hero his schemes, leading Jack to rush off to the bus in question and try to alert the driver (Hawthorne James) to the danger. Luckily he gets there in time and disaster is averted. Only joking, the driver thinks he's a nut and carries on, over the fifty mile an hour mark and into peril, with Jack putting his life on the line to get on that bus and defuse the bomb without allowing a major loss off life.

That's the key to the film, well, apart from the high octane suspense, but the difference between Jack and the mad bomber is apparent when we find out they are both cops. The bomber retired when he was injured and is seriously disenchanted with the amount of compensation he received, no matter that he was in a job that requested sacrifices; Jack on the other hand realises that virtue is its own reward and is fully prepared to give up his own safety to save others - to him it's the best payment the position can carry. So we can understand that the civic minded amongst the characters are those who will get the most out of their situation, with Annie introduced as a selfish city dweller at first who in her newfound heroine status when she has to take the wheel discovers resources she never knew she had, saves people, thereby proving herself worthy of Jack. Pretty darn good for a movie that too many dismiss as popcorn fodder when it's actually improving as well as peerlessly exciting for its time. Music by Mark Mancina.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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