Keanu Reeves stars in the 1994 classic action thriller that keeps audiences engaged with constant tension.
Circle Cinema hosted a screening of Jan de Bont’s 1994 action-thriller “Speed” as the September edition of its monthly “Graveyard Shift” program. The “Graveyard Shift” shows classic action movies late at night. This particular flick was shown on Sept. 6 and 7.
“Speed” has Keanu Reeves starring as LAPD officer Jack Traven, a fearless policeman who goes to preposterous lengths to save civilians from a bomb threat. This role solidified Reeves’ focus on action movies, paving the way for future blockbuster roles in movies like “The Matrix” and the “John Wick” franchise.
One of the civilians Jack saves, Annie Porter (Sandra Bullock), becomes a one- dimensional love interest for the officer. Jack’s antagonist is the psychotic Howard Payne, played by Dennis Hopper.
The main draw of “Speed” is the tension created by ridiculous scenarios. The basis of the action is a bomb strapped to the bottom of a bus, which will explode if the bus ever goes below 50 miles per hour. This creates a constant sense of urgency throughout the film, literally refusing to let the action stop.
The movie wastes no time setting the tone with this energy; the very first scene features hostages involved in a similar situation on an elevator. The tension is then maintained through the entirety of the film, when another speeding vehicle, this time a subway, becomes the setting for the final showdown.
However, it shouldn’t go without saying just how simple this movie really is and how many opportunities it missed. Dennis Hopper had already shown himself to be fantastic at playing villains in movies like “Blue Velvet” yet his character in “Speed” seems incredibly simplistic and uninspired. The film teases that he may have some more interesting motivation than just getting money, but this is never really expanded upon.
Similarly, Jack is an emotionless cop with no real characterization, and Annie is an almost insultingly predictable romance prop. Many lines of dialogue are laughably absurd, especially when delivered in Reeves’s deadpan grunts. All of these problems combine to create a movie utterly lacking in depth; it leaves the viewer with absolutely nothing to think about.
All this is not to say that the movie isn’t worth watching, of course. The film holds the viewer tightly to their seat for the entire two-hour runtime. The special effects, tight editing and visceral sound steal the show in “Speed.” A particularly intense scene involves Annie jumping the bus over a 50-foot gap in the road. The tension rises as the bus blows past signs warning of the oncoming danger. As the bus sails through the air, all sound is cut except the noise of the bus gliding through the air. A satisfying crunch ends the tense moment as the bus meets the other side of the gap. These heart-racing moments are the true triumph of the film, and what has allowed it to earn its place among classic action movies.
October’s “Graveyard Shift” movie is “Candyman” by Bernard Rose, showing on Oct. 11 and 12 at 10 p.m.