There are two things you need to know about Speed kills.
The first thing is that speed kills is a movie that stars John Travolta as a speedboat tycoon who sells drugs for the mob. It is important to start there because it is a true and also incredible statement. Did you ever think you’d see the day when someone made a speedboat drug movie starring John Travolta? I do not have. To be fair, I didn’t even realize it was something that was on the table. But that’s the problem with movies and art in general. They expand the range of what is possible. They make dreams real. And sometimes, well, those dreams are about John Travolta in a speedboat.
This brings us to the second thing you need to know: speed kills is not good. I imagine you’ve figured that out already, given that this is a speedboat movie starring John Travolta – fresh out of Gotti and with Fred Durst’s directorial debut on the way – and went straight to VOD and was at one point released in 10-minute chunks in a format specifically designed for VR headsets. I’m not kidding about that last part. I absolutely do not joke about it. Look at the website. Each segment has its own title, such as “Drug Running” and “Fast Money” and “Breaking Hearts”. It’s all very on the nose and just stunning on many levels and that’s the actual poster for the movie.
It’s got it all: helicopters, speedboats, explosions, more helicopters, Travolta holding a gun and looking me straight in the eye with a facial expression that screams “Well I guess I’m in a movie outboard now.” yes i looked speed kills. It was somehow both more and less than I expected. I’m sure you have questions about all of this. Please shoot.
What is that ?
Great place to start. Travolta plays a guy named Ben Aronoff who is loosely based on a real guy named Don Aronow. The movie opens with him in a phone booth in New Jersey in 1962. He’s a real estate agent and things have gotten weird and that’s not important at all because it’s only there to take us to Miami. In fact, wait. I lied. The film begins with Tom Sizemore walking into John Travolta’s speedboat shop to threaten him, then travels back in time to Jersey to explain how we got there.
Tom Sizemore is in this movie?
Type of! He’s only in this scene, but that closes the movie. For example, he really comes in at the beginning of the movie to bully Travolta with hammy warnings, and then we never see his character again until the very end, where he repeats the exact same hammy threats. That fact alone explains the movie better than any of the words I’m about to type.
Here’s the best part, though: In this scene and the flashback immediately following it, which, again, takes place 25 years earlier, John Travolta looks exactly the same. The only attempt to age or age it is to change your hairpiece. I love him so much.
Hmm. Alright, tell me about those speedboats.
So Travolta’s character goes to Miami with his family and he sees a speedboat race and falls in love. You can tell he’s falling in love because there’s a freeze frame and voice-over – one of many in the film, usually deployed to introduce new characters – where he says “And boom, just like that , I was in love. The speed, the water, the rush: I wanted it, I needed it. And boom, just like that, he becomes a speedboat racer and builder and there are three separate edits of him collecting trophies in about 15 minutes.
I find it hard to imagine that. Do you maybe have a screenshot or two of him in a speedboat?
I thought you would never ask.
Wait, I have more.
Okay, this help-
And here’s one telling Meyer Lansky that “everybody and their brother wants a speedboat.”
The Meyer Lansky? The infamous mob money man Hymen Roth was based on in The Godfather II?
Yeah! He is played by James Remar and he appears throughout the movie and every scene starts with him being friendly and ends with him growling at Travolta. His nephew, Robbie, is played by Kellen Lutz of Dusk and is the main antagonist. He also growls a lot.
You name a lot of actors but you haven’t mentioned Jordi Molla yet. I guess he’s in this movie because it’s a drug movie and Jordi Molla is in every drug movie.
I knew it. And does he, perhaps, at some point turn Travolta on and hold a gun to his head while shouting some variation of “We’re not that different”?
Yeah, I think I’m starting to understand this movie.
You really are. I’m only touching the highlights, though. Much of it is just…not great. Characters only appear long enough to teach Travolta’s character a life lesson, and then they disappear. His son hurts his spine in a car accident and Travolta yells at him and takes him to the racetrack to bet on horses and gives him a bunch of money and then we’ll never see the kid again. Female characters are tossed aside left and right. He leaves his wife and begins dating the King of Jordan’s girlfriend, played by Katheryn Winnick, whose only responsibilities in the film are to stare worriedly at the ocean and cry into a phone.
But why is she looking at the ocean?
Ahhh, I forgot to tell you about the storm.
Yeah. A big boat race takes place in awful weather and Travolta is out there bouncing around in choppy waters. The CGI isn’t great. This makes The Hurricane Heist look like Avatar. Look at this.
So, would you recommend this movie?
Let me put it like this. If you want to watch a good movie, or even a good movie, I cannot in good conscience recommend speed kills. But, if you want to watch a bad drug movie filled with John Travolta making puzzled faces in and out of speedboats, with thin characters and threats of Tom Sizemore and Matthew Modine appearing as George HW Bush for literally 90 seconds, so I I guess it-
Free time. Matthew Modine appears as George HW Bush in the speedboat movie Travolta?
Yeah, that’s weird.
I think I’ll have to see this at some point.