Jan De Bont’s directorial debut lands him squarely on the 101 Action Movies list as well as garnering Oscars for Best Sound and Sound Effects Editing.
Keanu Reeves is back, this time he’s Jack Traven, a LAPD cop playing a dangerous game with a bomber, Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper) who’s making things personal after Jack foils an early bombing attempt, which opens the film in a seat-clenching, tightly paced sequence which sets the tone for the rest of the film.
Jack and his partner Harry Temple (Jeff Daniels) are caught up in Payne’s path of destruction as the bomber rigs a transit bus to explode, should it go slower than 50mph or if anyone gets off.
Jack races into traffic, flashes his badge, and finally gets to leap aboard the bus, warning the driver not to slow down, but when a young thug thinks Jack is after him and draws a weapon, the driver is injured and feisty and sexy commuter Annie (Sandra Bullock) takes over as the bus operator.
The two flirt, share the tension, and carve out some nice character moments between them.
Meanwhile, Harry is at the office trying to track down Payne, and is shocked to learn his identity.
The film moves at two speeds, fast, and intensely fast, and even after almost 20 years, this one holds up incredibly well, and could still be De Bont’s finest film, though I also enjoyed Twister, and is a fun go to movie just to put on in the background – both films have such quotable dialogue.
Hopper is perfectly villainous, who actually has a legitimate gripe, and a film is always more engaging when you can understand the villain’s viewpoint.
Reeves is his usual stoic self, but it works well in this context. I wish there had been more Jeff Daniels in the film, but De Bont does round out the cast with a couple of familiar faces in the form of Alan Ruck and Joe Morton.
Graham Yost the film’s scriptwriter has openly admitted that fan favorite Joss Whedon wrote, uncredited, most of the dialogue, and that makes me smile, because I do like Joss’ writing!
I’ll also cop to liking the score for the film by Mark Mancina, who would later go on to do the score for De Bont’s Twister, as well as the upcoming 101 Action Movies title Bad Boys (1995).
Within moments of the film starting, I was completely captivated by it, as I was the first time I saw it. The opening credits appearing behind cross beams as we make our way down an elevator shaft, as Payne gets ready to launch his first attack, ransoming hostages in a rigged elevator for 3 million dollars.
The movie, as its title suggests boots along at a breakneck speed, and races for the finish line… It’s a well-crafted, highly entertaining piece of popcorn cinema, and I think it will find its way back into viewing rotation for yours truly, because I honestly forgot how much I enjoyed it.
Pop quiz hot shot… what did you think of it?