Los Angeles Police Department
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Officer Jack Traven
Played By: Keanu Reeves
- Determinator: Jack is extremely determined to saving the lives of the bus passengers and apprehending Payne for his crimes. The poor guy is routinely pushed past the breaking point physically and psychologically over the course of the film yet remains strong. By the end of the film, hes earned himself a long vacation.
- It's Personal: His enmity towards Payne becomes very personal after he blows Harry up.
- Shoot the Hostage: When Payne has Harry as his hostage, Jack shoots Harry in the leg, which causes Payne to drop him by surprise. The same trick doesn't work when Payne takes Annie hostage due to the latter being strapped with explosives.
Detective Harry Temple
Played By: Jeff Daniels
- Demolitions Expert: He's the go-to bomb disposal guy, armed with knowledge and years of experience,
- Knight in Sour Armor: A police officer with little illusions about his job, yet he does it well all the same.Jack: Tell me again, Harry, why did I take this job?.
Harry: Oh, come on, thirty more years of this, you get a tiny pension and a cheap gold watch.
- Sacrificial Lion: He and several other SWAT cops are killed after raiding Paynes home. The house was rigged with explosives which Payne detonated after they made their way in.
Captain Herb "Mac" McMahon
Played By: Joe Morton
- Benevolent Boss: Values the lives of his subordinates and does everything he can to ensure Jack saves the passengers on the bus.
- Supporting Leader: Is a Lieutenant in the LAPD and as such is Jacks superior. However, hes not the focus of the plot, instead supporting Jack with logistical assistance throughout much of the film.
Played By: Sandra Bullock
Played By: Hawthorne James
Played By: Alan Ruck
Played By: Carlos Carrasco
Played By: Beth Grant
- Too Dumb to Live: Had she listened to Jack, she would've stayed alive.
Played By: Dennis Hopper
- Ax-Crazy: He's a cackling madman who has no issue whatsoever killing innocents for his own gain or simply for fun.
- Berserk Button: He takes it very poorly when anyone outsmarts him or even attempts to do so.
- Cop Killer: Besides murdering several innocent people, he also kills several LAPD officers, including Harry. When a SWAT team raids his house because they think hes there, he detonates explosives he had planted, which kills Harry at at least a couple of other officers with him.
- Deadpan Snarker: Makes a lot of snarky remarks to Jack:
- Evil Genius: He's described twice as "crazy but not stupid" and lives up to it, showing both his extensive knowledge of bombs and preventing any interference and figuring out a way to monitor the bus without Jack knowing.
- Evil Old Folks: Hes probably around 60 years old given that his actor was 58 when the film released. Not extremely old but hes essentially a retiree committing acts of terror.
- Evil Is Hammy: He gives Evil Laughs a plenty, goes into screaming fits of rage on a semi-regular basis, and flat-out snarls during the climax.
- Faux Affably Evil: Payne has a cheery demeanor that barely conceals the maniac he really is.
- From Camouflage to Criminal: If you notice the newspaper article on his retirement, it mentions briefly that he formerly served in the United States Marine Corps prior to joining the Atlanta Police Department.
- Insistent Terminology: "Poor people are crazy, Jack. I'm eccentric!"
- It's All About Me: All Payne cares about is getting the money he feels he is entitled to, and he doesn't give a damn about how many lives he takes to claim it.Payne: You don't get it, do ya, Jack? This isn't about you. This is about me! This is about my money! This is about money due me! Which I will collect!
- Large Ham: Dennis Hopper was clearly having a wonderful time.
- Laughably Evil: Payne is an evil bastard, but his hamminess and quips make him a blast to watch.
- Killer Cop: Retired Killer Cop anyway. A former officer in the Atlanta Police Department who spent most of his career on the bomb squad. After suffering an injury that forced him to retire, he starts making bombs and using them to carry out threats to procure ransoms as he feels cheated out of his money. He is directly responsible for every death that occurs in the film (besides his own).
- Mad Bomber: A former police officer who served on a bomb squad now makes bombs and plants them on corporate elevators and buses so as to procure ransom money. His bombs are scarily effective and kill several people throughout the film.
- Moral Myopia: He seems genuinely convinced Jack stopping him from blowing up a ton of innocent people during the Action Prologue is some kind of heinous crime deserving of revenge. He finds being cheated out of money wrong, but thinks murder is okay.
- Off with His Head!: How he meets his end. His head is taken off by an overhead subway signal as he was wrestling Jack atop a train for control of his detonator.
- Sadist: His main motive is money but it's clear he also enjoys killing.
- Smug Snake: He's extremely arrogant, condescending and full of himself and sees everyone else, especially Jack, as beneath him.
- The Sociopath: He hits just about every mark. He has an extremely high opinion of himself, believes he is entitled to the money he demands, kills people largely for amusement and has absolutely no empathy or remorse for any of his crimes.
- Trademark Favorite Food: He's seen chugging down countless bottles of Coca-Cola while he monitors the bus and watches news reports in the situation.
- Villainous Breakdown: Payne completely loses it after an exploding dye pack leaves his money worthless, screaming semi-coherent death threats at Jack.