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  Jake Speed Pulp Fiction
Year: 1986
Director: Andrew Lane
Stars: Wayne Crawford, Dennis Christopher, Karen Kopins, John Hurt, Leon Ames, Roy London, Donna Pescow, Barry Primus, Monte Markham, Millie Perkins, Rebecca Ashley, Alan Shearman, Karl Johnson, Sal Viscuso, Ken Lerner, Ian Yule, Ken Gampu
Genre: Action, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: In Paris, Maureen (Rebecca Ashley) is spending time there with a group of friends when she catches the attention of a gang of white slave traders, and ends up being chased around the streets by them - she and her friends almost get away. Almost. Back home in the United States, her family fret and discuss how they could possibly get Maureen returned to them, and the official channels are little help. Then the grandfather of the family, Pop (Leon Ames) makes a suggestion: how about they contact someone like Jake Speed? Never mind that Jake is a character in a series of pulp novels, he would be ideal hero material for this situation...

What Jake Speed has at its core is a nice little idea that could have been appropriate for a family movie, that a fictional character is actually real and makes his living selling the stories of his adventures which his fans take to be yet another set of made-up pageturners. This is what Maureen's sister Margaret (Karen Kopins) believes anyway, that is until she gets a note sent to her informing her that she can get all the help she needs if she visits a seedy bar to make contact with a man claiming to be Mr Speed. Although the audience has faith that he is who he says he is, as after all we want to see the action break out, Maureen takes plenty more persuading.

This means a lot of hanging around while awaiting the story to begin properly, and even when Margaret is on her way to Africa to track her sister and meet up with Speed (Wayne Crawford) and his biographer-sidekick Floyd (Dennis Christopher) it doesn't feel as if there's much going on, no matter what the potential might be. This is a problem that plagues the film, where the "get on with it" factor of viewer impatience is high for too many times, not something you could accuse its main influence, Romancing the Stone (not Raiders of the Lost Ark which some contended this was mimicking for some odd reason), of doing. When the action does arrive, it lends the movie the look of your standard Cannon shoot-'em-up although this was from New World.

Another flaw was that Maureen takes almost half the movie, if not longer, to be convinced that Speed is the real deal, which is a little like watching a tale of derring-do that insists on leaving the handbrake on. At least the African locations, Zimbabwe as it was, provide a spot of exoticism to the overall appearance, as well as contributing to a sense of danger as the place the trio of good guys wind up in is in the middle of a civil war, so that they do not know when an explosion is going to go off or a hail of bullets will rain down. For Speed, he treats every obstacle in his path as grist to his next book's mill, and it's a running joke how often he comments on how fitting the latest development will go towards a ripping yarn.

Every hero needs his villain, and in Speed's case it's the head of the white slavers, Sid, played by John Hurt in one of his many "what on earth is he doing here?" roles. Hurt takes to the evildoer part with relish, and actually overshadows Crawford as his adversary, so much so that the nominal star's low key approach looks to have been a misstep when someone larger than life might have been called for, or at least a more enthusiastic performance. It's all very well being cool, but Crawford needed a measure of oomph, although he does come across as being sincere in Speed's belief that the side of the good guys is the most advantageous one to be on, and that the pure in heart are truly stronger than those, like Sid, who are determined to spawn immorality. After all, Crawford co-wrote the script, and its heart is in the right place even if it lacked the polish to capitalise on its ideas. Music by Mark Snow.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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