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I suspect that there is no justice in this life. Let me give you one off-the-wall example to drive my point home. In comparison to Keanu Reeves, Wings Hauser is a master thespian. Of course, you know which of these two men get leading roles in major Hollywood movies.

In my humble estimation, SPEED ($30) is just about the only Keanu Reeves film in which his limitations as a leading man don’t seem critical. After all, SPEED is an action movie that relies on stunts and special effects, instead of actors who can deliver lines with a modicum of emotion. Despite my opinions about Keanu Reeves total lack of acting ability and screen personality, I want to go on record to say that I thoroughly enjoyed SPEED. SPEED is an entertain-your-pants-off thrill ride directed with hyperactive intensity by Jan DeBont.

In SPEED, Reeves portrays Jack Traven, a L.A.P.D. SWAT team specialist who rescues a group of hostages from an office tower elevator. Jack becomes a hero and gets the glory, while the extortionist gets away empty handed. Dennis Hopper delivers a wildly over-the-top performance as Howard Payne, the crazed extortionist with a penchant for blowing things up. Unhappy about the not getting his money, Howard devises another plan to extort millions of dollars from the city of Los Angeles, while at the same time getting even with Jack. Howard takes the passengers on a city bus hostage by using a custom made bomb. The bomb is designed to arm itself when the bus accelerates to 50 miles per hour and explode should it drop below that level. Howard informs Jack about the bus, forcing the hero to place his own life on the line and save the passengers from certain doom. While the action is great, my favorite part of SPEED is the ever-lovable Sandra Bullock. Bullock portrays Annie, a bus passenger who is forced to take the wheel of the ill-fated bus as it speeds through the streets and highways of Los Angeles. Bullock is smart and sassy and has such a winning personality that she compensates for the hero’s complete lack of one. The cast of SPEED also includes Jeff Daniels, Joe Morton and Alan Ruck.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has done a respectable job brining SPEED to DVD. Contrary to the information of the DVD’s jacket, SPEED is presented very close to its full 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio and not 1.85:1. Unfortunately, the Letterboxed presentation doesn't include the anamorphic enhancement for wide screen televisions. Since there is no anamorphic enhancement, I would imagine that this is the same Letterboxed transfer that was issued on Laserdisc and VHS a few years ago. While the DVD edition of SPEED looks really good, it lacks the snap of a new anamorphic transfer. Don’t get me wrong, the image is sharp and nicely detailed. With a complete lack of chroma noise, the color reproduction on this DVD is better than anything one might have seen issued previously on Laserdisc or VHS. Digital compression artifacts never really made their presence known on this DVD.

SPEED is offered in English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, and with a French language soundtrack. The 5.1 channel Dolby Digital track has a rock 'em sock 'em action movie mix that is certain to please fans of this particular genre. SPEED has explosive bass and makes good use of the discrete channels for directional effects. Dialogue reproduction is clean, natural and never overpowered by the music or sound effects. English subtitles have been provided on the DVD. The interactive menus are fairly simplistic and offer the standard scene and language selection features, in addition to a theatrical trailer.

While I doubt that SPEED helped encourage ridership aboard mass transit, this movie is one bus ride action fans will want to take.






DVD reviews are Copyright 1998 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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