The Underrated: Speed

This may appear to be a strange choice for an underrated film, seeing as it made a colossal amount of cash at the box office at the time, and was greeted with a generally positive (bar a few po-faced douches) reception from critics. It’s also a film that I don’t know anyone personally who doesn’t like it.

However, over the course of time, its reputation is being savaged and it seems to be sinking into the mire of “guilty pleasure”. Forget that, this is no guilty pleasure- it’s a superior thriller and all round legitimately good film.

Just to confirm- this is an extract from The Guardian’s cricket commentary today (bear with me):

Sandra Bullock, who seems to inhabit an alternate universe where she’s the highest-paid actress around, up for an Oscar, and yet I can’t think of a decent film she’s made. I mean, You’ve Got Mail, The Net, Hope Floats, Miss Congeniality. Even Speed was rubbish.

See, or how about this from Amazon:

Maybe it was groundbreaking in its day, but I thought it was contrived and cringeworthy.

I haven’t particularly cherry picked either of these two quotes- the first was completely spontaneous and inspired the review, and the second jumped out when I clicked on the link. However, there are plenty of these type of comments out there- “dated rubbish” seems to be a common comment. I feel this is harsh.

I suppose I had better explain the plot, just in case someone has been living under a rock for the last 15 or so years. Speed is about an embittered nutter holding the city to ransom by placing large and elaborate bombs on various pieces of city ordinance- a lift, a bus and an underground train to be precise (although there is some quibble about the location of said bomb on train as it is technically attached to said lunatic). Keanu Reeves is the cop charged with defusing the bombs and catching the firebug, and Golden Globe Winner Sandra Bullock is the innocent bystander pulled into the fray. What it actually is, however, is a contrived (yes, but so what?) excuse for three gripping set pieces: the rescue of the lift, the bomb on the bus that makes up the majority of the film, and the train crash).

The point being, if you are going to artificially manufacture situations in the name of excitement, at the expense of the plot then you had better flawlessly execute the scenes. In the case of Speed, I honestly think it does.

The lift sequence is really an excuse to introduce us to the cops- Jeff Daniels is amusing as Harry, and Keanu Reeves unusually manages not to suck as Jack. They’ve got some great back and forth banter such as the famous “Pop Quiz” exchange and both characters roles are effectively and simply established- Harry is the brains of the operation, and Jack is the more gung-ho action oriented partner. The lift rescue itself, achieved through rigging the elevator to a conveniently located crane type thingy is exciting stuff- there’s a palpable sense that the poor buggers trapped in the lift may be on the express route down.

The second and far more important section of the film, the bus, is even more exciting. It could have been a bit sterile, given that nobody dies in the first section so there’s no risk, but they make the wise decision to have the bus driver dying and a passenger squashed. This adds an element of risk to the proceedings- these poor people are directly in the line of fire. What comes next may be somewhat silly, (jumping bus etc) but it’s nevertheless exciting stuff.

The final section is more of a typical face off with the baddie scene- but it’s still well put together- and the scene jumping the tracks is excellent. I really don’t know why this film gets so much crap.

The acting, despite the presence of Golden Globe Winner Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves is perfectly adequate for this type of film, but casting Hopper as the mad man was an inspired call. He really hams it up- and seems to thoroughly enjoy playing the embittered lunatic.

Is it flawless? No, the “comedy” black guy is agonising, and several of the bus passengers sink beneath cliché to parody, but they’re incidental. However, I think that the ride is more important than the detail in this case, and I’m more than prepared to let it slide.

Overall, Speed is a good film. It’s a thrilling action ride, and I really don’t understand why it gets the abuse it gets. It’s certainly one of the superior action films from the 90’s and one of the very few (struggles to think of another) Golden Globe Winner Sandra Bullock films that I can rewatch.

Until next time,


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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

122 responses to “The Underrated: Speed”

  1. Droid says :

    I love this flick. It’s one of my fav action flicks, and always a pleasure to watch. Say what you will about Reeves, but he was in 3 of the best action flicks of the 90’s. Not to mention Bill and Teds Bogus Journey.

  2. Continentalop says :

    This review reminds me of this movie I saw. It is about a bus that had to SPEED around a city, keeping its SPEED over fifty, and if its SPEED dropped, it would explode! I think it was called, ‘The Bus That couldn’t Slow Down.’

  3. koutchboom says :

    I hope Blown Away is next!

  4. koutchboom says :


  5. koutchboom says :

    Also, is this really under rated? Who doesn’t like this film?

    • Droid says :

      I wouldn’t necessarily call it underrated, but I would definitely say it’s unfairly mocked.

    • Jarv says :

      That quote from the Guardian was literally this morning.

      I wasn’t joking about the amount of tossers being rude about it, and I sort of resent that it’s now seen as a “guilty pleasure” when it’s nothing of the sort.

  6. Jarv says :

    I hope everyone noticed the tag- “Golden Globe Winner Sandra Bullock”

    I hear she has actually changed her name by deed poll to add the Golden Globe Winner bit.

  7. koutchboom says :

    Ahhhh I get it, Bullock backlash. Best thing she’s ever done was Demolition Man.

  8. koutchboom says :

    Who the fuck was she in You’ve Got Mail????

  9. Toadkillerdog says :

    I really like this flick. I do not hate Sandy either. She is who she is. I saw the last half hour of Speed 2 – OMG. Just awful.

    • koutchboom says :

      Did you know Jason Patrick is the son of the young priest from the Exorcist? And that that guy is dead….yet Max Von Sydow lives eternal.

    • Droid says :

      I was sorta/kinda/half amused by Speed 2 until the shithouse crashing in to the dock scene with the annoying as fuck comedy relief Scottish bloke counting down knots.

      • Jarv says :

        Oh god, and annoying comedy black dude again with his trashed luxury riverside condo.

      • Droid says :

        Yeah that was terrible too. The one other thing I’ll point out being annoying is the deaf girl with a crush on Patric. It’s not enough to have a normal girl in the ‘child in peril’ role, but she has to be fucking deaf?

      • koutchboom says :


  10. Continentalop says :

    Actually I’m not a fan of Speed (or Demolition Man). So I guess you guys get to finally meet someone who doesn’t like Speed.

  11. koutchboom says :

    Yeah I think Speed 2 wouldn’t have been half as bad if they got Neo back. Patrick is just such a non starter for me, seems like he’s constantly in a perpetual state of ‘just waking up’.

    • Droid says :

      I used to think that about him. But he’s really good in Narc and also… Rush? Is it called that? The one where he’s the drug cop who gets addicted. With Jennifer Jason Leigh.

    • koutchboom says :

      Oh yeah I forgot to add, the only thing I’ve seen him in I’ve liked was Narc. Didn’t even like him in that Ben Stiller movie.

  12. Toadkillerdog says :

    I did not know that Koutch. Do not talk about Von Sydow – even mentioning his name is like invoking Voldemort. Dang i just did it!

    I mean dude really is ageless. He must have been playing 70 year olds when he was 20.

    The same phenomena can be seen with fat or bald headed actors, or fat bald-headed actors. They can play older characters from a very early age, and can do that for decades.

  13. Toadkillerdog says :

    Hola Conti. You don’t like speed? Dang.

  14. Toadkillerdog says :

    Did anyone here see 2012? is it worth buying or netflixing?

    • Droid says :

      If you’ve seen the trailer then you don’t really need to watch all 150 minutes of the movie.

      • Hawaiian Organ Donor says :

        Don’t listen to them Toad. 2012 is worth renting no doubt. For me it’s worth owning. Yes the last third sort of slows down but all in all it’s a ton of fun.

      • Jarv says :

        I couldn’t be arsed with it. I’ll give it a spin at some point.

      • Droid says :

        The thing is, I sat there in the theater with growing unease and disappointment when I realised that EVERYTHING had been shown in the trailer. I already knew the story from the trailer, and I assumed the ending because really, it’s a fucking disaster flick by Emmerich. The characters weren’t remotely interesting, except for the comic relief Woody Harrelson. And it was long. Really fucking long.

        The destruction scenes are definitely good looking, but they’re ineffective. AND… it really pissed me off that billions of people are dying for about an hours worth of screen time and Emmerich tries to lighten the mood by inserting “comedic” moments like an old lady driving her car really slowly while our heroes are trying to get away from the earth opening up behind them.

        “Ha HA. Look, our heroes are stuck in traffic. Isn’t this little old lady annoying when they’re trying to get away.” They drive around her and look in the rearview mirror to see her getting fucking swallowed up by the earth.

        Ha hA! That’s so funny.

        Nope. Seen the trailer, seen the movie. I wouldn’t waste 2 1/2 hours.

    • koutchboom says :

      Yeah unless you saw 2012 opening day, you missed out and saw the trailer too many times. The movie isn’t better then that long trailer. I did a review for AIBN:

  15. Toadkillerdog says :

    It is also known as the Yul Brynner or Lou Gossett Jr. effect .

    • Continentalop says :

      Telly Savalas Factor too. And Ed Harris has been studying it.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        And the grand-daddy of them all – Mr Burl Ives!

      • Continentalop says :

        Toad for the win. Burl Ives indeed.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        Thank you. I will take my no prize now.
        There was one other dude, he played king tut on the batman tv show. I think it was king tut. Anyway he was very young but fat and always played older characters. Don’t forget William Conrad either. I just saw him in The Killers. he was – relatively, skinny then.

      • Continentalop says :

        King Tut was Victor Bouno. We were just talking about him the other day (hey toad, do you remember the third actor who played Mr. Freeze? I remember Eli Wallach and Otto Preminger and I know there was one other guy but I can’t remember him for the life of me).

        And yeah, William Conrad. He was great in the Killers with his partner, tough as nails Charles McGraw.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        Conti – that was George Sanders! Shere Khan himself!

  16. Toadkillerdog says :

    Thanks Droid. Ill just watch the trailer again and wait until HBO shows it.

  17. Toadkillerdog says :

    Victor Buono! King Tut on Batman. I may have to go home and dig out my VHS tapes of batman i recorded back in the 80’s to see if i have that episode.

  18. Toadkillerdog says :

    Kind of funny, we are talking about Sanders and Conrad – men who had two of the greatest speaking voices ever in history of hollywood. I put Robert Preston at the top of the list because he could sing as well. Gotta throw John Huston in the mix. And the legendary voice of the NFL – John Facenda.

  19. Continentalop says :

    George Sanders! I totally forgot. I always think he committed suicide by then.

  20. Toadkillerdog says :

    Yes, Harrison and Rains! Then we have to go to John Gielgud. he might actually crack my top two! Preston is numero uno with me, and I loved Sanders, but Gielgud would give Sanders a run for his money. But Shere Khan was just such an awesome performance.

    • Continentalop says :

      Gielgud is a good choice. “Do you want me to wash your dicky for you?

      Dark horse I’m throwing in is Edmund O’Brien, mostly because of his radio work on Johnny Dollar.

  21. Toadkillerdog says :

    And Welles too.

  22. Droid says :

    And Bobcat Goldthwait!!

  23. Droid says :

    And Rosie Perez!

  24. Jarv says :

    I mentioned it in passing, but the reason I did it is because for some reason it’s gone from being a thoroughly respectable if not excellent action movie, to a guilty pleasure.

    I blame Golden Globe Winner Sandra Bullock entirely for this.

  25. Droid says :

    Rivers Edge is really good. Not seen Idaho. I had read the book of The Devils Advocate prior to seeing the movie so I was disappointed. I did enjoy Pacino’s performance though.

    • Jarv says :

      MIPI is OK, not seen Rivers Edge and I saw Advocate again very recently (with an underrated Keanu series in mind) and it is, in fact, terrible.

      • Droid says :

        Highly recommend Rivers Edge, Jarv. Crispin Glover is awesome in that.

        George McFly FTW!!!

        It would make a terrific (if depressingly bleak) double bill with At Close Range, wtih Sean Penn and Christopher Walken. See that as well if you haven’t.

      • M. Blitz says :

        You should definitely see River’s Edge. It IS depressing, though. But great.

        Keanu’s good in it. Crispin’s awesome. Dennis Hopper’s insane. Love the scene where Keanu’s yelling at his mom’s boyfriend, or maybe his stepdad(?). Something about ‘You just come around here to fuck my mother and eat my food! Motherfucker! Foodeater!!!” So good!

    • koutchboom says :

      Hahahah I read A BOOK called the Devils Advocate after having seen the movie thinking it would be cool to read the book of….turns out it was just similar in title. It was boring as shit, it was about a priest coming to grips with his life choices who I think just kills himself in the end. The movie was better.

  26. Droid says :

    Christopher Walken has an awesome voice. He could read the phonebook and make it sound cool.

  27. Continentalop says :

    Yeah Walken has a great voice. So does Freeman and Hackman.

    But Golden Age actors had better voices IMO. Not saying they were better actors (but many were great) but that they has better vocal skills. And that was probably because the ones mentioned above also worked extensively on stage and on radio. Who fucking works in radio nowadays?

  28. Toadkillerdog says :

    Yeah, I think you are right Conti. The key diff is stage work. Freeman worked on stage too. Being able to project and to speak clearly, as well as having a god given great voice.
    Richard Burton needs to be on the list as well. I like Hackman. he has a distinctive voice.

  29. Toadkillerdog says :

    Notice we have not mentioned females voices? There are some great ones, but o me the greatest of them all was Mercedes McCambridge – better known as the voice of Regan in The Exorcist! She also did a helluva lot of voice over work, as well as movies. She was the rival of Joan Crawford in Johnny Guitar

    • Continentalop says :

      Good call toad. She was also the lesbo gang member in Touch of Evil.

      Female voices? Mary Astor, Agnes Moorehead and Ethel Murman.

      Oh and Lauren Fucking Bacall. Delicious.

      • koutchboom says :

        Hey Conti, I just posted a positive review to Gamer, feel free to rip me apart for it.

  30. Droid says :

    Female voices?

    Anne Ramsey, Estelle Harris, Bea Arthur.

  31. koutchboom says :

    Why does everyone hate Devils Advocate? Is it the ending?

    • Jarv says :

      Koutch- that’s an “It was all a dream” ending coupled with a really shoddy photoshop job- there’s no defending it. Not to mention that a lot of the film is flat out terrible, and Keanu hasn’t got the chops to portray someone that doesn’t believe that his wife is seeing things. Instead he thinks she’s nuts. Keanu just looks like he’s concussed.

      It really isn’t a very good film.

  32. Droid says :

    Seriously, one of my fav female voices is Kathleen Turner. Particularly when attached to the Kathleen Turner from Body Heat.

    Talk about making my jiblets tingle.


    • Jarv says :

      Eartha Kitt.


      • Droid says :

        Whatever does it for you, mate.

      • Jarv says :

        Just thinking about gravelly old witches now.

        I seem to remember Eartha Kitt played Catwoman at some point.

        Which defeats the point of Catwoman, now I think about it.

      • Continentalop says :

        Jarv, I’ll defend Eartha Kitt as Catwoman. If you can’t get Julie Newmar, don’t go get another hot piece of ass to fill the part. Go 180 degrees and get someone that parodies the entire “Cat” angle instead of just another sex fantasy. And Eartha Kitt did that.
        No one could say “Purrrfect” like Eartha Kitt.

  33. Continentalop says :

    Toad, final male voice we should have thought of:

    Noel Fucking Coward.

  34. Continentalop says :

    So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on ‘em. ‘Give me five bees for a quarter,’ you’d say. Now where was I…

  35. M. Blitz says :

    We have identical taste in Keanu. And regarding The Devil’s Advocate, how many blood vessels do you think Pacino harmed in the making of that film?

    He really is doing the most insane parody of himself.

    • M. Blitz says :

      And he’s pretty much dancing around like a maniac the entire time. Kept expecting him to bust into a tap dance routine or start channeling Al Jolson or something. He can barely contain himself! So awesome, in that gawking-at-the-screen kind of way.

  36. Continentalop says :

    You know Frank, you remind me of a poem I can’t remember, and a song that may never have existed, and a place I’m not sure I’ve ever been to…

    • Jarv says :

      That happened to me last saturday. I was humming that all day Sunday.

      I blamed the beer monkey- Turns up, steals all your money, whacks you on the head with a hammer then shits in your mouth- but it could have been the pub equivalent of Narnia.

  37. Toadkillerdog says :

    Brian Blessed and Alec Guinness.

    Blessed is simply awesome. I first saw him in I, Claudius waaay back in 70’s when it aired on PBS. Derek Jacobi and John Hurt also where in I, Claudius, they too have great voices. Lots of Brits on this list. His Flash Gordon work and his Blackadder work elevate him high on the list in my pantheon.

    Alec, has a very rich and smooth voice. I put him the Ralph Richardson tier. Below Gielgud – somewhere in the top 20.

    Brits are truly dominating the list. Combination of Royal Shakespeare training and God given talent. Stage work – whether singing or acting, is the key.

    Someone mentioned Kathleen Turner! Oh, yes! Hot, smoky. Jessica Rabbit baby!

  38. Tom_Bando says :

    I liked Speed. It’s good. Both Keanu and Bullock are in good form here. Ditto Dennis Hopper. Donno what the bitching is about. I imagine I like Bullock more than most here, but then again I’ve very little interest in most of her junk despite that.

    Ever see Constantine? Keanu walks thru that role, rather badly. I thought that flick was so-so. This one-that’s Good Bill and Ted, if you like. This is how you get a good performance from Keanu-throw him under a bus.

    Hey I like that line-

  39. herrmilflover says :

    No mention of Johnny Mnemonic? Or did I miss it amongst the geriatric actors talk?

  40. xiphos0311 says :

    good choice Jarv and screw all the douches that act like they don’t like the movie because they do. That’s what’s so good about the movie, the sheer likability and fun of it.

  41. just pillow talk says :

    I just saw this a few weeks ago. This is a great action flick, no doubt. The only really dumb thing that bothered me was the bus jump.

    And the bus driver does not die. They get him off the bus with the rest of Keanu’s team on the flat bed or whatever truck they were on when riding next to the bus.

    • Jarv says :

      I didn’t say he died- He’s shot and dying. But they do kill old woman.

      That’s what I meant

      • just pillow talk says :

        I will blame my lack of a first cup of coffee on my lack of reading comprehension.

        I think Keanu’s best piece of acting is when the hoodlum pulls the gun on him in the bus. “Everything is cool.”
        Heh, the way he talks him down is quite cringe-worthy.

        And it’s hysterical that he leaves the dude in the car on his own once he jumps onto the bus from the car. Dude very easily could have died, but fuck ’em. I got peoples to save on the bus!

      • just pillow talk says :

        WTF…blame my lack of a first cup of coffe on my lack…

        I think I should just call it a morning already and start drinking. Heavily.


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