… is simply one of the best balls-to-the-wall pedal-to-the-metal (literally!) action thrillers ever made. Even the title is perfect. What an insane idea! A honkin’ big old city bus that can’t go below 50 mph without blowing up! If I had been a studio exec in 1993 all I would have needed was to hear that sentence and I’d reach for my checkbook. The stunt work was magnificent. They must have destroyed or at least banged up over a hundred cars. They had fourteen busses, and destroyed most of them. The action is relentless, hardly allowing us to stop to get our breath. And it has two climaxes, both of them pretty amazing.
When they have finally evacuated the bus, fooling Dennis Hopper as the mad bomber (and I think only he could have pulled off the scenery-chewing he does and make it work), it crashes into a plane being towed across the tarmac at LAX. … only it wasn’t LAX, it was the airplane graveyard at the Mojave Airport. Lee and I were there on the day Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne made its first flight. The plane looks to be a 707, which no one in America was flying in 1994.
Then we get the second one, which involves the end of a runaway subway train crashing into the unfinished Hollywood Station and emerging from the pavement right in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. It is a truly impressive gag, and must have required the shutdown of Hollywood Boulevard for at least a few days.
Is this story possible? No, but with one exception I thought the stunts were at least plausible. There is a sequence when they discover that the I-105 Freeway is not complete. There is a gap of 50 feet. And I said, no way. They spoke of a ramp of some sort, but when we see the gap it is perfectly flat. The bus would have fallen off the edge. And yes, I know they did jump a bus over something, because we see it in the air (and hats off to the stunt driver behind the wheel!), but it wasn’t that gap.
Keanu Reeves is not really my favorite actor. He’s good as a doofus in the Bill and Ted movies, but I think he lacks something as an action hero. But he does okay here. The real attraction here is Sandra Bullock, in her star-making role. She is just great. I can see this movie every five years or so, when I have forgotten just how freakin’ crazy it is.