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Speed: Five Star Collection

Cinematographer Jan De Bont's 1994 directorial debut Speed is a cracking good thrill-ride. The "premise-first" tale — about an out-of-control, bomb-addled bus — is masterfully paced and brightly sketched and agreeably performed. It made a star of Sandra Bullock and paved the way for Keanu Reeves to star in The Matrix. It's a minor masterpiece of popcorn-flick design that cemented the "siege film" as a Hollywood staple. Nonetheless, viewed from a distance of several years, Speed's high-concept is so high you want to send it in for rehab. L.A. bomb-squad cops Jack Traven (Reeves) and Harry Temple (Jeff Daniels) stop a bomber/extortionist (Dennis Hopper) from killing an elevator-ful of yuppies. Hopper escapes, faking his death — only to turn up later with an even nastier extortion bid: He's wired a bomb to a bus, which will explode if the bus moves slower than 50 mph. Following some virtuoso driving, Jack Traven commandeers the bus and tries to figure out how to defuse a rolling hostage crisis. Sparks fly between him and Annie (Sandra Bullock) — the twentysomething cutie-patootie forced to take the wheel after the driver is shot. What follows is essentially an explosive tour of L.A.'s people-moving infrastructure: Cars, buses, planes and subways become playgrounds of mayhem — with acceleration and/or immolation presenting themselves as handy solutions every time. In terms of story, it goes without saying that Speed is sprung directly from Die Hard's loins. Both "siege films" feature blue-collar heroes who get the snot beat out of them, weirdly spoken villains, and large, broadly sketched supporting casts — all thrust into an escalating hostage drama utilizing confined spaces and drawing equally from action- and disaster-film tropes. But there are crucial differences, among them that the vehicles are De Bont's real stars, and it perhaps relies too heavily on thrills and editing to cover up its massive logic flaws. And yet it's so thunderously loud and so gleefully destructive, you'd swear George Miller was cackling behind the camera. Fox's two-disc Speed: Five Star Collection features a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with audio in DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1. Features include a dry commentary by director Jan De Bont, a caustic track from screenwriter Graham Yost and producer Mark Gordon, five extended scenes, several featurettes on stunt sequences, the original screenplay, a "Production Design" essay by Jackson DeGovia, interviews, a large image gallery, the trailer and TV spots, an HBO featurette, a Billy Idol music video, production notes, a THX Optimizer, and an alternate scene shot for airline screenings, which is hidden as an Easter egg. Dual-DVD keep-case.
—Alexandra DuPont

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