You'll Never Ride the Crosstown Bus Again Without Keanu

FILM

Speed

Directed by Jan de Bont

at a local theater

neat you.

According to various media sources, "Speed" is the movie of the summer, the best action movie in a long time, a great reason to keep your driving record clean so you don't have to resort to the bus.

Surprise--the hyberbole is more or less borne out. Those in the mood for "White" probably won't appreciate this hard-driving flick. But those feeling like a thrill, a chase or even just a diversion will enjoy "Speed." That includes many who don't usually like action movies. If you haven't gone to see it already, head over to the nearest theater and catch it on your next free night. Besides all else, it's a movie you have to see to stay in touch with the current American culture.

The plot is well-known by now. Staunch LAPD member Jack Travens (keanu Reeves) play a game of wits with crazy man Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper). Their showdown of sorts centers around a bus that Payne his wired with a bomb set to go off if the speed drops below 50.

Passenger Annie (Sandra Bullock) gets roped into driving the thing while Travens tries to find a way to rescue the passengers--who also can't get off the bus lest Payne detonate the bomb. It's not deep or world-shaking, but it's entertaining. Danger, explosives, insanity--your typical action-adventure movie ingredients.

But one of the most amazing thing about this film is what it's a not--regarding star Keanu Reeves, that is. As we all know, Keanu Reeves first became famous as laid-back time-traveler Ted Theodore Logan, Esq. And he's never been able to escape it in any of his following film roles.

"Dangerous Liaisons?" Ted in a doublet. "Point Break?" Ted on a surfboard. "Much Ado About Nothing?' Ted tries blank verse. "Dracula?" Ted and vampires.

But, mirabile visu, "Speed" is not Ted on a bus. Reeves' character Jack Trevens is tough and somehow intense. The movie doesn't try to make him out to be a rocket scientist--his partner Harry (Jeff Daniels) provides the technical smarts, constantly telling Travens the why and wherefore of the bombs they encounter. But Travens is believably street-smart, able to think on his feet.

And he's fairly is control, of himself and of the various situation he's thrown into. It helps that he has Sandra Bullock as Annie to play off of--she's funny and talented. But Reeves manages to hold his own as a credible don't-mess-with-me action hero much more believably than he did in "Point Break." Maybe it's the buzz haircut.

He even hold his own with Dennis Hopper, his usual maniacally brilliant self. Hopper plays Howard Payne, an articulate, intelligent psychopath--such a big departure from all of his other roles. But Hopper is particularly unlikable and unsympathetic here.

Usually with the case of a smart psycho, there' some sympathy or admiration that the character can evoke, turning the battle between good and evil into of opposing wills.