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Jan de Bont
Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock, Joe Morton, Jeff Daniels
Graham Yost

Get ready for rush hour.
Rated R.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Sound Effects Editing; Best Sound. Nominated for Best Film Editing.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 116 min.
Price: $16.99
Release Date: 11/14/2006

• Audio Commentary with Director Jan de Bont
• Audio Commentary with Producer Mark Gordon and Writer Graham Yost
• Trivia Track
• ďSpeed: Take Down GameĒ
• Trailers


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Speed [Blu-Ray] (1994)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 22, 2015):

Of all the many films that rehashed the Die Hard formula, Speed easily remains the best of the lot. Some of the others worked fairly well, but none reached the same level of quality. While not as strong as the seminal Die Hard, Speed does top that filmís sequels and stands as one of the few action flicks that merits consideration alongside the prototype.

Speed starts with a crisis in an office building. A nutbag named Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper) threatens to kill a bunch of elevator passengers if he doesnít receive a payday of about three million bucks. Along with partner Harry Temple (Jeff Daniels), gung-ho young cop Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) saves the passengers and foils Payneís plot.

After the baddie fakes his own death, Jack soon learns that Payne remains on the prowl. Payne still wants his money, but he also wants to torment Traven along the way.

Payne blows up a nearly unoccupied bus and tells Jack that he put another bomb on a different one. The gimmick: once the bus reaches 50 miles per hour, itíll arm the explosive device, and if the vehicle dips below that speed, itíll detonate.

And thereís your plot! The rest of the movie simply follows Jackís attempts to save the bus passengers. He manages to board the moving bus and he gets to know the inhabitants, where Jack develops a special connection with Annie (Sandra Bullock). He drafts her to take over the vehicle when another passenger accidentally shoots the driver (Hawthorne James). As they roll through Los Angeles, the film offers one close call after another while the crew defies death.

Iíll never refer to Speed as a perfect film. It includes characters that seem too cardboard and dialogue that appears too stilted and forced. However, it does pretty much everything else right, as it creates one of the liveliest and most compelling action flicks Iíve ever seen.

Much of this occurs because director Jan de Bont keeps the pace relentless. Sometimes that can be a bad thing, as too many movies try to overwhelm the viewer with action.

Although de Bont rarely lets us catch a breath, he still manages to avoid overkill. Not many movies go for the gusto in such an active manner, but it works well for Speed. Heck, it helps cover some of the plot holes; youíre too occupied with the thrills to notice just how many people the police endanger to save the handful of bus passengers.

No one looks to this sort of film for fine acting, but Speed benefits from some good performances. None of them reach the heights established by Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman in Die Hard, but almost no clunkers appear either. It seems that the most faulted work comes from Reeves, who provides a typically one-note performance as supercop Traven.

However, the lack of complexity works for the role. Jack seems like a very focused individual who maintains total concentration on the task at hand, and Reeves demonstrates that attitude quite well.

Reeves also brings a solid physical presence to the role. No, Keanuís not the second coming of Olivier, but give the guy some credit; he does well in this part and the fairly dissimilar Bill and Ted flicks, so the dude can show some versatility.

Nonetheless, the other main actors outclass him and provide the strongest work. Stuck as the thankless second banana, Daniels manages to bring some life to Harry, and he makes some of his scenes surprisingly memorable.

The nutcase role should have been second nature to Hopper at that point in his career, and he offers a comically insane performance. Payneís no ultra-weirdo like Frank Booth in Blue Velvet, as he seems much cartoonier. Hopper embraces the over-the-top comic book tone of Speed and tosses out some excellent line readings as well.

If nothing else, folks should remember Speed as the breakout vehicle for Bullock, for it launched her career as a star. It wasnít her first film by a long shot, and it wasnít even her first big-budget action flick; she appeared in 1993ís Stallone dud Demolition Man.

However, Bullock brings a wonderful sense of humanity and personality to the underwritten Annie and makes her a memorable character. Few viewers usually remember this sort of role in this sort of film, but Bullock manages to create a nice portrait with her work here.

I still donít feel Speed approaches the heights of Die Hard, but I canít think of another film in the genre that threatens its number two status. Speed provides a consistently exciting and thrilling experience that holds up well after 21 years. The movie pours on the action and miraculously allows us to suspend disbelief even as it offers some of the most moronic scenes ever filmed. Speed remains a classic action film.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Speed appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This wasnít a killer transfer, but it looked positive.

Sharpness appeared pretty crisp and detailed throughout the movie. A few shots looked a litle soft and smeared, but those werenít frequent issues. Instead, the majority of the flick appeared concise. Jagged edges and moirť effects created no concerns, and edge haloes were absent. No print flaws marred the presentation.

Speed featured a naturalistic palette, and the disc presented these hues accurately. The colors remained clear throughout the film, and they always seemed nicely full. Black levels also appeared deep and dense, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not overly thick. Really, most of Speed presented a solid image; only some light softness knocked it down to ďB+Ē.

I also felt pleased with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Speed. The film showed a very active and involving soundfield at all times. From the opening elevator sequence to the bus shenanigans to the climactic scenes, Speed used all five channels to great effect.

The music showed solid stereo presence, and effects cropped up from all around the spectrum. Elements seemed appropriately placed, and they integrated well. Sounds moved cleanly from one speaker to another and each channel boasted a lot of unique audio. In regard to the soundfield, this was a top-notch mix.

Audio quality was generally strong but not consistently terrific. Speech appeared crisp and distinct, and I noticed no problems due to edginess or intelligibility. Music was clear and bright, but the score didnít show great depth; not that the music lacked any bass, but I felt those portions needed stronger punch to work as well as they should. Effects came across as clean and accurate, and they provided a stronger low-end presence. My criticisms of the Speed soundtracks remained minor, as the film usually provided very positive audio.

How did this Blu-ray compare to those of the Special Edition DVD? Audio seemed fairly similar, though the DTS-HD track was a bit better; it boasted stronger bass response for effects, though both suffered from somewhat thin music.

Visuals showed the standard improvements. The DVD looked pretty good, but the Blu-ray offered greater definition and clarity. It also lost the handful of source defects from the DVD. All those factors made it a step up in quality.

The Blu-ray includes only a few of the extras from the SE DVD, and we open with a pair of audio commentaries. The first comes from director Jan de Bont, who offers a running, screen-specific track. Iíd heard de Bontís discussion of Twister and thought it seemed decent but unexceptional. His chat about Speed appears somewhat more engaging. I canít call it a terrific commentary, but it works pretty well.

During Twister, visual effects supervisor Stefen Fangmeier accompanied de Bont, so the track took a pretty technical bent. Even on his own, de Bont still stays with a lot of nuts and bolts aspects of Speed, but these donít dominate as heavily as they did during the Twister piece. He offers a good general discussion of the film that seemed a little dry at times, but de Bont nonetheless provides a reasonable amount of useful and interesting information.

Even more satisfying is the second commentary from producer Mark Gordon and writer Graham Yost. Both were recorded together for this running, screen-specific piece. From start to finish, this track is a blast. Gordon and Yost clearly know each other well, and their dynamic seems fun from minute one. They provide a lot of great information about the movie; from its genesis to casting possibilities to changes made along the way to challenges experienced during the shoot, they contribute scads of useful material.

In addition, Gordon and Yost show a terrifically irreverent tone toward the movie itself. They demonstrate a sense of affection for the flick but they still poke lots of fun at it Ė and many holes in it. They appear more than happy to point out all the plot flaws and scenes that lack logic, and they also provide appropriate criticism of their work. Many amusing moments result, such as their on-going debate about how many people die in the film. Overall, this is an excellent commentary that I really enjoyed.

Under Trailers, we get the promo for Speed. We also find ads for Behind Enemy Lines, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Phone Booth, Planet of the Apes and The Transporter.

Two Blu-ray exclusives appear. A trivia track accompanies the movie and tells us about the filmís origins, various stunts and effects, cast and crew, realism and research, sets and locations, and a few other production elements. The ďTrivia TrackĒ throws out some decent info, but the material appears infrequently and doesnít add a ton.

Speed: Take Down Game allows two options. Play as ďJack TravenĒ and disarm as many bombs as you can, or play as ďHoward PayneĒ and blow up as many as you can. Both games simply require you to move the cursor around the screen and hit ďenterĒ a whole lot; this never becomes fun.

What does the Blu-ray omit from the SE DVD? Lots and lots Ė so much that I wonít even bother to list it all here. Just go back to the DVD review to see what goes missing here.

Why does the Blu-ray drop all those extras? I donít know. The Blu-ray did come out during the formatís early days, so perhaps Fox worried that the supplements would eat up too much space. Their absence disappoints, though.

21 years after its release, Speed remains a terrific thrill ride. It may not be the absolute best of its genre, but itís quite close to the top, and it provides a fun and exciting experience. The Blu-ray offers very good picture and sound along with a few supplements highlighted by two good commentaries. Itís too bad the Blu-ray axes so many of the DVDís bonus materials, but it becomes the best presentation of the movie itself.

To rate this film, visit the DVD review of SPEED

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