Not so in "Speed." Payne thinks the world owes him a living, for various reasons, and is out to get it. He's in it for the money. It's enough to make even the most bleeding-heart liberal turn against the welfare program to hear this wacko go on. Near the end, the audience just wants Payne dead, dead--preferably blown up with one of his own bombs.
Which brings up one the advantages of "Speed"--minimal gore. Some people die in this movie, unfortunately, but director Jan De Bont avoids the temptation to show every drop of blood. And each death stands out rather than simply becoming part of a body count, getting treated with the appropriate amount of horror and sadness.
Of course, De Bont makes up for the restraint in one area with an excess in another. This is a damm destructive movie. Things crash, blow up and burn at tan amazing rate--planes, (subway) trains, automobiles.
Cynics in the audience will point out that it would have been much, much cheaper to just pay Payne the $3.7 million and get it over with--after all is said and done, the price tag probably averages more per hostage than the original ransom would have been.
But then the sheer thrill of the chase would be lost. And thrilling it is--although that bus does drop below 50 miles per hour at some points. Watch it and see. It's not for lack of Annie's driving abilities, of course--as a speed nut myself, I got very fond of Annie. She's as tough as any California girl not used to danger can believably be when thrust into maximum overdrive crisis.
Translation: she doesn't cry, she keeps her cool, but she's shaken at points. The chemistry between her and Travens is low-key but there--and seems completely natural, the result of two people being thrown into an "intense experience" together.
Jeff Daniels provides some balance as Travens' older, slightly more jaded partner, Harry. He can act like a nut, but ask him a question about a bomb and suddenly he's Mr. Wizard, spouting off details about detonation wires and weird timers. He seems to be in constant analysis mode. And the gear the LAPD folks wear is really cool--black and futuristic, a cross between battle armor and the suits in "Dune." They look like they can handle anything.
"What do you do?" is much too cheesy to replace "Make my day" or even "Ah'll be bakh" as one of the all-time famous one-liners. But that doesn't mean that "Speed" isn't up there with the memorable action movies. Reeves should stick to the action genre rather than trying to be a serious actor. The specter of Ted has been banished in "Speed," but it's always lurking around, waiting to return.