By our rough estimation, about half of ‘90s action movies were basically “Die Hard on” like Passenger 57 (Die Hard on a plane), Cliffhanger (Die Hard on a mountain), or The Matrix (Die Hard on LSD). The best one of them all was arguably Speed, aka Die Hard on a bus, the energy of which is ALL over the latest trailer for Marvel’s Shang-Chi.
Speed (1994) starred Keanu Reeves (this time willingly) as a SWAT bomb disposal specialist stuck on a bus that cannot drop its speed – ooooh, now we get it – below 50mph or else a bomb planted on it will explode. It had some great action scenes, including that kick-ass bridge jump …
… and some solid performances by Dennis Hopper and Sandra Bullock, and Reeves … uh … eventually did John Wick, so it’s all good. All in all, it was a ton of fun and a runaway success with critics, audiences, and internet writers who love puns. And it might not have existed if the father of Speed’s screenwriter hadn’t confused two movies.
The movie was written by Graham Yost who in 1990 was told by his father about a cool Jon Voight movie written by THE Akira Kurosawa about a train with a bomb on it that couldn’t stop: the unimaginatively titled Runaway Train (1985). Yost went to see it and apparently “thought it was pretty good” but he had one problem with it. There was no bomb anywhere in the story. His dad had gotten that detail wrong. Still, it got Yost thinking. What if there had been a bomb on a runaway type of public transport. That would make for a cool story. He eventually settled on a bus and a 50mph speed limit and like that Speed was born.
But, wait, where did Yost’s dad get the idea that there was a bomb in Runaway Train in the first place? The official story is that he most likely heard the name “Akira Kurosawa” and confused it with the 1975 Japanese movie The Bullet Train … about a train with a bomb on it that will explode if the train drops below 50mph. Also, it’s all part of a ransom scheme, just like in Speed.
That’s … quite a coincidence, which is a word that Legal begged us to go with, so we’ll leave it at that.
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Top Image: 20th Century Studios