If you are a millennial, the thought of Keanu Reeves pops the image of John Wick in your head.
If you are a bit older, you are probably thinking The Matrix.
But take the word of a hardcore Keanu Reeves fan, it was Speed, that made Neo and John Wick a reality.
Back in the 90s movie makers used recognisable characters from everyday life and put them in extraordinary situations.
They cast bonafide A-list movie stars unlike the ‘ripped to shreds’ actors of the 80s or the ones we use right now. They were set in locations vaguely familiar to the audience to gain a sense of relativity.
The villains were near genius madmen portrayed by actors who overshadowed everything in their presence.
Speed ticked all these boxes and yet it was different.
It’s like 1988’s Die Hard. Except, Keanu Reeves’ Jack Traven did not have to utter catchphrases after every kill. In fact, he barely killed anyone in the film. Director Jan De Bont, kept Die Hard’s spirit alive while telling an entirely different tale.
Now, the movie had its own plot holes that would only get deeper if it received even the tiniest of scrutiny.
But what worked for the film was the fast-paced plot (pun intended). It practically glues you to the edge of your seat without any time to deviate your attention from onscreen drama to find any plot holes.
The idea of the film was fairly simple. When a bus full of passengers hits 50m/hr (80km/hr), it activates a bomb under it that will go off, if and when the vehicle goes below the mentioned speed.
An unknown blackmailer on the other side of the phone demands $3.7 million, with the threat that if someone tries anything funny, all those onboard go up in ashes.
There is a specific abandonment of the unreal when it comes to action movies. And Speed preys on that extremely well.
Reeves’ Jack Traven, throughout the film, struggles to keep up with the villain, Howard Payne. He regularly fucks up the high-octane stunts, falls under a bus, leaks the gas tank, takes unnecessary risks, among other things.
Which is why, even with that buzz cut, he comes off as more of a bro and less of a cop. In fact, the only thing his cop badge does is give the viewers a false sense of control.
Reeves, who had previously played comical doofuses in teenage dramas before this, outdid himself by performing his own stunts.
Remember him jumping from the car to the bus or crawling under it? That was some Jackie Chan shit. While it might not have had the latter’s grace, it was gutsy as hell.
This movie propelled him to the heights, paved the path for The Matrix trilogy. Speed was the first step Reeves took to become the action movie star that he is today.
Sandra Bullock’s Annie, on the other hand, is vulnerable. She panics in the face of danger but holds her own when the situation demands. She follows orders like a good cop(irony!).
She actually gets to be the hero for most of it. She drives the bus, makes jokes, talks Reeves into not losing his shit when he hears that his partner has been killed.
And it is this chemistry between the two easy-on-the-eyes leads that drives this movie home; much faster than 50m/hr.
The plot of the film is so crazy that just like Reeves’ character, we spend a huge chunk of the film just trying to wrap our heads around what the hell is going on.
Everything else, the character development, the jokes, the romance, sense of duty and all that shit, gets embedded in the already high octane sequences, without slipping under the radar or burdening the script.
So, go ahead. Watch it again. Watch it for Keanu Reeves. Because Jack Traven is the most badass rookie cop in movie history!