By Stephanie Zacharek
By Simon Abrams
By Michelle Orange
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Nick Schager
By Amy Nicholson
By The Invisible Woman
By I Used to Be Darker
You'll find plenty of bombs on every summer's movie schedule. But this year Hollywood is setting them off on purpose.
A little later in the silly season, terrorist Tommy Lee Jones will torment Boston cop Jeff Bridges with his penchant for explosives in Blown Away. For now we must content ourselves with mad bomber Dennis Hopper squaring off against athletic L.A. SWAT teamer Keanu Reeves in Speed.
As you may have heard by now (it's a very loud movie), this is the picture in which a crowded city bus has been rigged to blow up the instant it slows below fifty miles per hour. That's what the suits in La-La Land call high concept, and that's what keeps cinematographer-turned-director Jan De Bont careening along from freeway to side street to airport runway. Because Reeves is busy trying to disarm the wild-eyed Hopper's bomb, he leaves the driving to passenger Sandra Bullock. She may have lost her license for speeding, but she negotiates fifty-foot pavement gaps on unfinished overpasses, harrowing ninety-degree turns and clotted lines of L.A. traffic with aplomb. Naturally, she also finds time to fall for cop Keanu.
Apparently, bus explosions don't quite cut it on their own. So while they're at it, the adversaries gleefully wreck some other modes of transportation--hostage-filled building elevators, baby carriages, airplanes, cars, trucks, motorcycles and subway trains. The Rodney King riots and the earthquake are Presbyterian picnics compared to this festival of L.A. mayhem, which finally, and mercifully, comes to rest right in front of Mann's Chinese Theater. Yes, kids, it's only a movie.
Reeves will have plenty of pocket money for a while: His summer jobs include playing Siddhartha in Little Buddha, contributing to the mistake that is Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and leaping from a hurtling Jaguar to the Number 33 bus in this film, which means that he's been miscast exactly three times. Meanwhile, if you want to see the authentic Dennis Hopper psychosis, Red Rock West is a better place to go. Although Deranged Dennis gets to plunge a dagger into a security guard's ear in the very first scene of Speed, he's little more than a jumble of electronic gadgets and evil cackles here. Amid all the frenzy, the actors may as well be stunt people anyway, and the dialogue (credit Graham Yost) sounds as if it came off a cartoon show.
Still, ex-cameraman De Bont has a pretty good feel for frantic movement, so Speed may be just the thing for action junkies who want to keep their frontal lobes thought-free this summer. By the second reel, however, the rest of you might feel like slipping out to the lobby for a couple of Dramamines.
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