(Both films can be had in a single package, even if that version is out of print. If yuou can find it, it's the only way I'd get "Speed 2" if I were so inclined, because that way I could at least just consider it a bonus feature.)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock and Jeff Daniels
Director: Jan deBont
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars
When SWAT officer Jack Taven (Reeves) foils a mad bomber's (Hopper) extortion plot, it becomes personal. He traps Jack and along with a dozen passengers onboard a bus that is rigged to explode if its speed drops below 50 miles per hour. While the police try to figure out where the bomber is hidden, Jack must attempt to keep the busload of passengers calm while trying to find a way to save both them and himself.
This is one of those pressure-cooker action movies where things go from bad, to worse, to really bad--and the final bit of villainy from the bad guy gives the third act a twist that truly rocks. Aside from some hackneyed dialogue, "Speed is well-paced, well-filmed, and all the actors give excellent performances. Reeves, who usually annoys me, is even good, and Bullock (as Annie, a particularly resourceful bus passenger) also shines as her usual Girl Next Door character, even if she spends virtually all her time on-screen behind the wheel of the doomed bus. Dennis Hopper plays his part with a gleeful evil that is great fun to watch.
Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997)
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Wilhem DeFoe and Jason Patric
Director: Jan deBont
Rating: Two of Ten Stars
Annie (Bullock) goes on a cruise with her new boyfriend (Patric) only to find the ship hijacked by a mad-dog murderous terrorist (DeFoe) who is bent on crashing the ship into the harbor going at full speed. Much mayhem and property damage ensue... but very little that's particularly interesting or suspenseful.
Everything that director deBont did right in the original "Speed" he does wrong here. The setting is too open, the villains don't seem sinister enough, and whenever the story starts to build a little tension, it is dispelled by a ludicrous action sequence for the same of action, an unfunny bit of attempted humor, or something inane that defies description. I suspect that the writers and marketeers thought the subtitle "Cruise Control" was really clever ("it's set on a cruise ship, and it's under the control of bad guys, and it's a pun on cruise control in vehicles... get it, huh, get? [giggle-giggle]"), but instead it stands a description of how this exceedingly bad follow-up to an excellent movie was made: The creative and production staff were operating on cruise control, not really paying attention to what they were doing.
Kenau Reeves was smart to pass on this one. I wish Bullock had too, because her talent is completely wasted in this stinker. In fact, all the principles give decent performances, given what they have to work with, so they're all pretty much wasted.
For more reviews of awful movies, check out the companion blog Movies to Die Before Seeing.