Fox // 1994 // 116 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 13th, 2011
I know it may be a controversial statement, but I'm trying to think of another pure action movie from the 1990s that's better than Speed.
Hotshot young police offer Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves, The Matrix) has been making a name for himself, rescuing hostages and indirectly murdering hostage takers. But when one of his foes returns for some payback with a dastardly plan to blow up a bus, Jack will be forced into a high-stakes, high-speed game of cat and mouse and the loser will get decapitated by a subway light.
We had some solid Hollywood actioners during the Clinton administration, for sure, but as turn the gears beneath my thinking cap, I can't conjure a superior offering than Speed. The deck is stacked against it, I know: a stoic Keanu Reeves, a bubbly Sandra Bullock, Dennis Hopper chewing through scenery like a weedwacker, all of it directed by the guy who gave us Twister.
But lighting, meet bottle, because nothing can convince me that Speed doesn't deserved to be in the conversation for one of the best action films of all time. It's paced wonderfully, the movement so relentless that even when the bus stuff wraps up and there's a whole other act left to go, my feeling was "Oh yes, bring it on!
And let's be honest...the hook is pretty ingenious isn't it? A bomb on a bus that will explode if the bus dips under 50 miles per hour? Brilliant. Because that opens up the possibilities for so many beats within the framework and God bless writer Graham Yost, because he goes for all of them. The bus has to drive around the city; the bus has to jump over a chasm; the bus is running out of gas; the bus is now on two wheels; we have to get these people off the bus before it runs into that humongous cargo plane and explodes in a pyrotechnic display so over-the-top, arsonists climax at the mere mention of it. These guys lefts no narrative stone unturned, giving the entire film the feeling of "You are going to get your money's worth."
There's money on the screen, too. Which is another reason why Speed is so near and dear to my heart: the eye-popping action is done by old-fashioned movie magic. There were stunt buses, stunt drivers, practical explosives, dummies and a legion of foolhardy stunt personnel willing to risk their ambulatory state to deliver the goods.
But you know all this right? Maybe you're not on board with my decree of Best Action Movie of the '90s, but who can deny the excellence of Speed? If those people exist, then, well, I don't think I want to live in a world like that.
Perhaps this Blu-ray can reach those lost souls. It's a five-year old release (hey, better late than never!), but this HD representation is solid. The technical achievements measure up, starting with a decent 2.35:1, 1080p (AVC-encoded) transfer that has no trouble pumping out the mayhem with bold clarity. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a hard-working mix, transmitting the bombast with depth; this soundscape is a wall-shaker. Extras are lacking, though: two commentary tracks with director Jan De Bon, Graham Yost and producer Mark Gordon, a pop-up trivia track and a goofy game.
What are you waiting for? You can probably buy this disc for like five bucks or a bag of magic beans. Go get it.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Trivia Track
* Interactive Game