Peace Arch Entertainment // 2007 // 93 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 27th, 2009
To survive, ten strangers must do the unthinkable.
A biker gang goes nuts and attacks a bus full of losers. What ensues is a nifty action yarn.
In the backwoods of Texas, a bus carrying an eclectic group of passengers: an Army deserter, a deadbeat dad (Desmond Harrington, Dexter), a single mom (Lea Thompson), a verbally abusive high school coach, a fantasy role-player, a coward and his pushy girlfriend and the Iraq-contractor-turned-bus-driver (David Rees Snell, The Shield). When an unfortunate accident leads to the death of one of the bikers, the bus buddies suddenly find themselves under assault from the rest of crew.
Panicking, they drive the bus into a scrap-yard and take refuge amongst the rusting hulks. It's there that they choose to make their stand as the bikers circle, Mad Max-style, eager for revenge.
Despite a cheap feel that pops up now and then and some goofy character moments -- hey, here's a biker-fighting pro-tip: when you're sneaking up on the bad guy, don't scream profanities to alert him you're coming; and if you're lucky to waste him anyway, don't hang around in the line of fire admiring your handiwork -- Exit Speed is a half a loaf of dopeness. A bunch of folks, repelling a biker siege in a junk yard, shooting Molotov cocktails out of a potato cannon, firing genuine dark elf arrows and blowing open large intestines with shotgun shells -- what's not to like?
Director Scott Ziehl keeps his foot welded on the accelerator pedal throughout, generating a frantic pace, which goes a long way in distracting from some of the film's shortcomings, namely the vapid one-liners, forced emoting and tough-to-swallow action scenes (Lea Thompson severing a biker dude's throat with one swing of the machete?!?). The bad guys attack almost instantly, and our protagonists land in their fortified junkyard soon thereafter and from then on it's pretty much an ongoing assault.
It's in between the actual attacks that we get hits of character development. The coach is a chauvinistic jerk who of course will eventually come around to appreciating the female Army deserter in the heat of battle, the Spanish illegal alien and pretty-boy a-hole form a strong bond over the roar of their makeshift potato cannon, the role-playing geek girl fires up a romance with the rugged slacker and so on. Early on, I didn't find the characters appealing, but credit where it's due: I actually ended up caring about these losers by the end, enough so I actually felt saddened by their deaths.
This fueled my audience bloodlust for the bikers to get theirs, which was fortunate because I had no idea who these d-bags were. The decision to keep the villains ominous is obviously a stylistic choice and while there's something to be said for the fear inspired by a largely anonymous evil force, most of the time these guys just seemed like targets. But my what fine targets they are! The action in Exit Speed is R-rated and messy: brain smatter splattered on the side of the bus, guts shotgunned all over the place, a faceful of rocks shot point blank out of a cannon, strangulation from barbed wire, it's not bad at all. The mega-shootout finale stands out as a legitimately exciting set piece.
The picture quality (1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen) is decent if not an eye-popper, and the 5.1 surround mix is clean. Extras are breezy: a short behind-the-scenes featurettes and a shorter segment on the bike stunts. A photo gallery and trailers wrap things up.
I'm a discriminating action aficionado, and Exit Speed delivers.
Not guilty. Vroom.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Peace Arch Entertainment
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Photo Gallery