Speed Kills (aka Cigarette) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Between Gotti and Trading Paint, it seems that Jon Travolta has settled into the comfy and passive placement of low-teir action pictures with gimmicks of crime and vehicles. Speed Kills finds him playing real-life figure Ben Aranoff who specialized in first running boats and then running drugs through those boats. Pretty much all the expected scenes occur where Travolta will look down his nose as snooping law enforcement and get to ride some pretty cool boats. Sometimes he does both in the same scene.
But if you’re expecting anything more from this plot, perhaps a deeper look at how Aranoff lied to his family and authorities or how even the business of boating can go shady, you won’t find it here. What you will find is a lot of the fat from this type of rise and fall sort of story involving guns, drugs, and seacraft. Oh, and a helicopter! It’s the type of film that Red Letter Media has coined as a we-have-this movie. In other words, Travolta had access to boats and a helicopter to make a movie, where the rest of the story just seems to be built around footage of vehicles in action.
It’s too bad considering there’s some real drama to the story of Aranoff. He becomes a major target for law enforcement and his family is deeply affected by it. His son has a serious medical issue and a bitter relationship takes place between him and his busy father. There’s plenty of room to explore some serious issues but Travolta and company merely breeze through these scene with a boring passitvity, where you can just see that look in Travolta’s eye that he’d rather be driving or piloting something at that very moment. I don’t blame him but, as with that of driving a car or playing a video game, it’s something you’d rather do yourself than watch actors on screen pull off in a slew of B-roll.
But the film has all the same problems as Travolta’s previous crime and vehicle thrillers. It’s only unique on a cosmetic level. Sure, the showcase of boats and a helicopter look neat but what is done with them? Will they crash or pull off dangerous stunts? Of course not! Do you know how much these things cost? The filmmakers are not out to make anything THAT daring. Similarly, Travolta looks the role of an aged man who turned to a life of crime but to what degree does he inhabit the role? His withered and wrinkly face can only do so much in a script that he strolls through without much screen presence. Watch close and you can see him B-line straight for the steering wheel in many scenes where one is not present.
I was so bored by Speed Kills but I tried to look on the bright side of Travolta’s new subgenre because I get the feeling we’re in for more of these. What I ultimately came to the conclusion of is that Travolta needs a TV show akin to either true crime reenactments or Top Gear. Either or because as it stands this mixture of crime drama and fancy vehicles doesn’t taste that great.