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Laramie Movie Scope: Speed

A non-stop action thriller

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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June 14, 1994 -- ``Speed'' is a non-stop action thriller that ought to leave the competition in the dust this summer.

Starring Keanu Reeves (``Point Break'') and Dennis Hopper (``Blue Velvet'' and ``River's Edge),'' there is no letup in this slick action adventure. There is also no character development and the story isn't really believable, but who cares? This movie is fun.

Sure, there's violence, but it is comic book-style violence, not the bloody, graphic kind. Directed by Jan De Bont and produced by Mark Gordon, it reminds me of the films directed by James Cameron and produced by Gale Ann Hurd such as ``Aliens.'' It also reminded me of the ``Die Hard'' films. It takes a special touch to keep up the suspense in an all-out action film like this without hitting some dead spots. There are no dead spots in this film. It is also tough to keep coming up with one cliffhanger after another, but this film manages to do it with style.

The story revolves around Reeves and Hopper. Hopper plays Howard Payne, a mad bomber, and Reeves plays Jack Traven, the bomb-squad cop trying to foil him. Jeff Daniels also stars as Reeves' sidekick, Harry.

Payne sets up an ingenious bombing plot to extort money from the city. He rigs a bus to blow up if it goes below 50 miles per hour. Traven and Harry have to figure out how to disarm the bomb or get the passengers off the bus before Payne can blow it up.

It sounds simple, but it isn't. There are several other subplots involving more cliffhangers. Payne always seems to be one step ahead of the police. The cat and mouse game between Payne and Traven is similar to the tension between Clint Eastwood and John Malkovich in last year's fine thriller, ``In the Line of Fire,'' but otherwise the two films are quite different.

There was a gritty realism to ``In the Line of Fire.'' The characters and plot were believable and the acting was magnificent. ``Speed'' is a different animal. The film is based more on established Hollywood conventions than on reality. A couple of the action sequences are not only unrealistic, they're downright silly, but they are fun just the same. This kind of film has been done many times, but only rarely has it been done this well.

This is a very entertaining movie. I guarantee it will keep you awake. It rates a B+.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)