POP QUIZ: Which summer 1994 movie changed action cinema, overnight? An unexpectedly massive hit. And BRILLIANT!
I cannot stress enough quite how important the film was at the time:
- Rebranded Keanu as action star. No SPEED? Arguably no Matrix, no John Wick. Point Break was fine. THIS? Whole other level.
- Marked Dennis Hopper’s second wind as rent-a-baddie. His son once asked ‘Daddy, why play the bad man so much?’ Dennis explained it was bought the kid his shoes. ‘I don’t need shoes that much, Daddy’. Lovely stuff.
- Launched SANDRA BULLOCK! Yes she had been in Demolition Man. But this is her 1990s breakthrough.
- Turned LA into a character as a landscape.
- Coincided with the politics of the time. A nominally safer world, post cold war and pre 9/11. But that made it all the more important to dramatise the ever present threat of the lone villain and the carnage they could do.
- Great balance of tones: thrills, romance, darkness, comedy. Ditto its social vision. Keanu is still the big macho man doing his thing but also as sensitive and athletic as he is strong and expert. That he is nowhere near as convincing a bomb disposal officer as would have been Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis, Val Kilmer or George Clooney is beside the point. Keanu is a massive movie star and a lovely bloke and a committed craftsperson. All onscreen here.
- 1994 changes movies, forever. Philadelphia! Schindler’s List! True Lies! 4 Weddings and a Funeral! Pulp Fiction! The Lion King! And SPEED.
- Shame they stuffed it up with a bad sequel (Speed 2, much as I like it). But SPEED 3: RACE THROUGH LOCKDOWN is rumoured. By me, here.. Keanu and Jason Patric team up to save Sandra across a city where nobody is allowed to move, except via speedy vehicles..