Our review of Speed (Blu-ray), published October 13th, 2011, is also available.
"I saw this in a movie about a bus that had to speed around the city, keeping its speed over fifty. And if its speed dropped, the bus would explode! I think it was called…'The bus that couldn't slow down.'"—The Simpsons
Pop quiz, hotshots: what film was given a mediocre DVD release years ago? Okay, so the answer is many, many movies from many various studios. But one conspicuous suspect was the Keanu Reeves action thriller Speed. Non-anamorphic, bare bones…it was a disappointing release to say the least. Over the last few years Fox has tried to make amends to fans by releasing "Five Star Collections" of certain movies, including the Die Hard series, Independence Day, and now everyone's favorite ticking bus time bomb movie Speed. Spanning two discs, a fancy new transfer, and some rocking audio tracks, Speed: Five Star Collection roars onto DVD care of Fox Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
A bus. A bomb. A speedometer. Let the mayhem begin!
Los Angeles has seen its share of whack jobs, but none quite as deadly as mad bomber Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2). Payne is a psychopathic ex-cop who is looking for some monetary compensation after being forced into "early retirement." His first attempt at rigging an elevator filled with innocent bystanders is thwarted by SWAT team member Jack Traven (Reeves) and his partner Harry Temple (Jeff Daniels, Terms Of Endearment). But his second outing soon becomes much more involved…and much more disastrous! Payne has rigged a city bus with an explosive device that is armed once the bus goes above 50 miles per hour. Everyone on the bus is safe unless the bus speed dips below 50 MPH, in which case the bus, the passengers and the surrounding vicinity goes ka-boom. After Jack boards the bus, Payne lays down some ground rules: no one gets off the bus, no one gets on the bus, and no one makes any rescue attempts for the passengers (which includes the always entertaining Alan Ruck, Ferris Bueller's Day Off). After the driver of the bus is shot and wounded, the spirited Annie (Sandra Bullock, Miss Congeniality) takes over behind the wheel, and Jack's heart (awwwwwwww). Though city streets, torn up off ramps and airport runways, Jack and his crew must find a way off the bus before they end up meeting the big Ralph Kramden in the sky!
Speed is a high-octane thriller that moves along at a breakneck pace. It's a film that literally and figuratively doesn't know how to slow down—and for once, that's a good thing. I hadn't seen Speed since its theatrical release in 1994, and eight years later it still retains a fresh, fun pace that is hard to match. This movie thrust Keanu Reeves into the action spotlight. In the years following Speed, Reeves would pop up in a few mediocre action flicks (Chain Reaction, Johnny Mnemonic) and one of the biggest sci-fi action hits of the 1990s (The Matrix). Up until 1994, movie audiences knew Reeves mainly as the slacker Ted Logan from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Suddenly Reeves—sporting a cropped hairstyle and a piercing stare—was the epitome of action cool. And Speed is a very cool movie.
As directed by Jan De Bont (Twister, The Haunting), Speed is a film that piles action/stunts upon action/stunts. Cars explode. Buses blow up. People are blown up. Elevators plunge to their doom. Subway cars go flying. I think Speed has about everything you could want in an action movie except a flying cow, a nuclear explosion, and the kitchen sink. While De Bont's directing merits could be questioned (uh…has he done anything even remotely good since this movie?), there's no denying that Speed is a top notch popcorn movie. The screenplay by Graham Yost is tight and taut; there's a few slow moments, but they are rare. The idea of a bus being rigged to blow when it dips below 50 miles per hour is simple but ingenious—who'd have thought that such a wacky idea could make for such a roller coaster of a movie? Sure, there are moments of total implausibility. I don't know about you, but I'm somewhat skeptical on the idea of a bus being able to hurdle itself over an unfinished stretch of the Los Angeles highway. And a few of those twists and turns the bus takes sure do look like it's riding under 50 MPH. However, these complaints can be overlooked due to the sheer zeal the movie radiates.
Dennis Hopper's Payne makes an ultra cool villain. In fact, Hopper's performance here is so good that it led to teeth gnashing bad guy roles in big budget flicks like Waterworld. Hopper has a grand time chewing up the scenery while spouting dialogue like "See, I'm in charge here! I drop this stick, and they pick you're friend here up with a sponge! Are you ready to die, friend?" Speed was also the movie that really introduced America to one of their favorite girl next door actresses, Sandra Bullock. I really believe that out of all the movies Bullock has been in, she shines no brighter than she does in Speed. Perky, sarcastic, and cute, Annie is the perfect role for Bullock, hands down. Also supporting the film well is Joe Morton (Terminator 2: Judgment Day) and Jeff Daniels as Reeves' SWAT team co-workers out to stop Payne's reign of terror.
I highly recommend Speed to any action fans. Of course, if you're an action fan, the chances are you've already seen Speed half a dozen times by now. The movie is explosive without being gratuitous and crackling without being mean. Do yourself a favor and take another look at it on this new two-disc edition. And make sure to do yourself another favor and skip the bland, Keanu Reeves-less sequel Speed 2: Cruise Control.
Speed: Five Star Collection is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Boy oh boy, is this transfer leaps and bounds above Fox's previous transfer. Fox has done a fantastic job of cleaning up this print and serving up viewers a newly created anamorphic disc that looks fantastic. There are a few noticeable flaws in the image, including some haloing and pixelation in the image. However, what imperfections show up are overshadowed by the dynamic amount of detail and sharpness in this picture. Fans should be more than pleased with how this image came out. Kudos to Fox!
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English, DTS 5.1 English Surround, and Dolby Digital 2.0 in French. Much like the video presentation, the soundtrack is also top notch. Both the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and DTS mix are full and bombastic, enveloping the viewer in a fury of sounds, effects, and music. The directional effects in both soundtracks are constant and unrelenting—in short, either of these tracks should give your home theater a heavy and thorough workout. If I had to be nitpicky and choose only one soundtrack, I'd probably lean towards the more subtle DTS track. But don't be fooled—either of these will do fine. Also included on this disc are English and French subtitles.
Ah yes, I do love these Fox "Five Star Collection" sets. Like the Die Hard Trilogy, Speed: Five Star Collection features a fairly extensive amount of extra materials for fans to peruse though. Starting off disc one are two separate commentaries, the first with director Jan De Bont and a second with screenwriter Graham Yost and producer Mark Gordon. The commentary with De Bont tends to lean on the technical side of filmmaking—those who know De Bont's work as a cinematographer on movies like The Hunt For Red October and Lethal Weapon 3 won't be surprised when he delves into details about the camera work or how a certain scene was achieved. However, De Bont's dryness is contrasted well by Yost and Gordon's chattiness and exuberance. The two men seem to be having a ball watching the film while always throwing out some interesting tidbits about the production. Taken as a whole these two commentary tracks are worthwhile listens for any Speed fan. Also available on the first disc is a THX Optimizer for setting up your TV and sound system.
Disc two is where all the meaty extra features are. Included on this disc are the following special features:
Action Sequences: Under this section you'll find two featurettes: "Bus Jump" and "Metrorail Jump," combined totaling about 16 minutes. Each of these two featurettes takes you behind the scenes of each respective action sequence with interviews by De Bont and various cast and crew members. Apparently, the bus jump was the biggest of its kind as of 1994. Personally, I love stuff like this—the inner workings of the special effects department is always endlessly fascinating to me. "Multi Stream Storyboards" are just what they sound like: storyboards you can watch with or without the film in the bottom corner. These are broken up into five sections: "Introduction," "Bomb on Bus," "Bus Jump," "Metrorail Fight & Crash," and the unfilmed "Baker Sequence" (with optional commentary by the director). "Multi Angle Stunts" features a look at different angles from which an action sequence is filmed. Included in this section are "Bus Jump," "The Cargo Jet Explosion," "Jack vs. Payne," and the "Metrorail Crash." These multi angle features really let the viewer see how much work (and film!) go into doing just one single action scene.
Inside Speed: This section starts off with three separate featurettes: "On Location," "Stunts," and "Visual Effects." Like the previous featurettes, these three focus mainly on the stunts, action and effects work on the film. Some of this stuff is really interesting (I loved watching the filmmakers briefing the LAPD before a highly dangerous chase scene), though other aspects seemed to be a bit repetitive. Also included in this section is the original screenplay (clocking in at over 250 pages, so read it when you have an hour or six), plus an interactive production design section that allows the viewer to bring up different info and pictures along the way.
Interview Archive: Here you'll find interviews with most of the key players from the film, including actors Keanu Reeves (5:56), Sandra Bullock (9:27), Jeff Daniels (6:48), Dennis Hopper (4:41), and director Jan De Bont (4:22). Each of these interviews sport few surprises—everyone talks about their characters, their motivations, what it was like working on the set, et cetera, et cetera. While they are nice to have on the disc, they probably aren't something I'll need to watch over and over again.
Extended Scenes: Here you'll find—duh—a collection of extended and deleted scenes. As the menu screen states, Speed was a tightly filmed movie and as such didn't have a lot of extra footage left over. But, what there is left is here for you to watch. Scenes included: "Jack Shoots Payne in the Neck," "Payne Lives / Cops Party," "Annie's Job," "After Helen's Death," and "Ray's Crime." Each of these is presented in a rough looking non-anamorphic widescreen version.
Image Gallery: In this menu, you'll find about 18 different sub-menus and galleries for all different kinds of photo galleries. If you have time this is fun, though it did get a bit stale after a while.
Promotions: This is the final menu on the disc, and it includes just about every promotional feature you can think of. Included in this section are eleven TV spots, a theatrical trailer for the film, some production notes, and a music video for the song "Speed" by Billy Idol. Also included in this section is the 24-minute "HBO First Look: The Making of Speed" featurette. If you've already gone though all of the extra features by this point, you're not going to miss a whole lot if you skip this feature as everything in it was already covered in the previous supplemental materials.
Finally, there is a really funny Easter egg located in the upper right corner of the main menu. Follow the next menu until you see the bus icon, then press enter. It's yet another reason of why I hate to fly.
I'd be so bold as to say that Speed is one of the most fast paced, stunt filled action movies ever made. Even upon a second or third viewing, the film still holds the viewer in its tense grip. Fox has done a fantastic job on this set, so strap yourself in for one heckuva wild ride!
Don't fail this pop quiz: pick up your copy of Speed: Five Star Collection ASAP!
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