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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Adventure > Terrorism > Speed (1994/Blu-ray)

Speed (1994/Blu-ray)

 

Picture: B†††† Sound: B†††† Extras: C+†††† Film: B

 

 

At a time when Keanu Reeves endurance as a big star was still uncertain, Sandra Bullock was unknown and Jan De Bont was only known as a cinematographer, the three teamed up for a mid-level action project they all thought would have potential.It would be De Bontís directorial debut, prove Reeves was more than just an icon of the 1980s and made Bullock one of the biggest female movie stars in the world.Promoted like another Die Hard clone, everyone soon learned that Speed (1994) had much more to offer and the result was a huge worldwide blockbuster that remains a favorite to this day.

 

Bullock plays Annie Porter, a plain Jane type who finds herself taking on more than she ever thought possible when a psychotic madman named Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper brilliantly chewing up every scene he is in) who has a mad plot that this domestic terrorist intends to go through with.The police are not aware of all that is about to happen, but Officer Jack Traven (Reeves) will be closest to the scene and it will be up to him and Annie to stop him.Annie drives the bus!

 

Payne has set up a crazy device in a bus that will explode once it is activated and the bus runs under 50 miles per hour.That leads to all kinds of split second decisions, crazy moves and the most unexpected events you can imagine.The Graham Yost screenplay plays with dumbness and populism in amusing ways, some of which were necessary to escape the 1980s Action cinema mode.The result is an entertaining film that holds up well over a dozen years later.

 

Bullock and Reeves have chemistry, something shockingly missing from their recent disastrous reunion project The Lake House, which deservedly bombed.However, here, they are very good together and they help make the film work even when it has some problematic spots.Also helping are the solid supporting cast including Jeff Daniels, Joe Morton, Glenn Plummer, Alan Ruck, Beth Grant (Donnie Darko, White Sands) and Glenn Plummer.The actors you donít recognize by name you would certainly recognize by face, all of whom went on to more success after this film hit.

 

It is also the kind of fun action film that was more possible pre-9/11 than afterwards, but with that considered is not as exploitive as so many other Action films from either period to the credit of those who worked hard to make it fun and effective.For that reason alone, it is worth revisiting, but it also reminds us of a time not too long ago before Hollywood got crazy with empty digital trickery that major studios could turn out Action fare with some substance and make it work.

 

 

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital AVC @ 14 MBPS High Definition image on this 25GB disc is good, but the film itself was shot on film stocks that never totally matched up if you look closely.However, since this was shot in real anamorphic scope Panavision, it is nowhere near the problem it would be if this were Super 35mm or especially HD shooting.As a matter of fact, one of the great things about the cinematography of Andrzej Bartkowiak (Prince Of The City, The Verdict, Falling Down) is that it is not plastered or manipulated with digital video or that the colors have been desaturated or some nonsense like that.That actually helps this film, though the transfer is likely the same HD master used for the old D-VHS D-Theater release, which means it has limits sometimes associated with DVDs.

 

When this film arrived, it marked Foxís first-ever DTS theatrical release and this is the fourth format the film has arrived in with a DTS track.First was the 12Ē DTS LaserDisc that is considered one of the best for sound ever released in that series.Then a DTS DVD finally arrived after a lame Dolby Digital-only disc, but the DTS mix was problematic, with choppiness and balance issues I know were not in the theatrical version.In 2003, the digital High Definition D-VHS D-Theater was one of the titles in that format to actually offer DTS and ironically, PCM 2.0 Stereo with Pro Logic surrounds like the first 12Ē LaserDiscs of the film.

 

This first Blu-ray edition of the film offers the soundtrack in DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio at its lossless 192/24 configuration and though the chip and equipment for the full playback has not hit the market as of this posting, the bad news is that this Oscar winner for Sound Editing is the same problematic mix from the DTS DVD.Those who can re-equalize the sound with their receiver might find some relief, but this is just not the mix at its best.Mark Mancina turns in what is still his best score to date and the sound mix has character with some good moments.To bad this is a little out of whack.Were the LaserDisc and D-VHS mixes better?

 

Extras are unfortunately limited on this 25GB version, offering the theatrical trailer in HD, a trivia track, the superior reference abilities of this format and two solid audio commentaries on the film.One is by De Bont, the other by Yost and producer Mark Gordon.The double DTS DVD set has much more, but Blu-ray fans will have to wait until a 50GB version for that.Hopefully, the picture and sound will be upgraded by then too.

 

Some early discs could not play on early Samsung players, but after comparing the original and replacement versions, performance is the same and the reissue discs work on all the players we tried it out on.Speed is bound to be a hot item with HD playback, but it is not definitive.This version should keep fans just about happy until then.

 

 

-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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