Keanu Reeves plays Jack Traven, a police officer in pursuit of Mad Bomber Howard Payne, played by Dennis Hopper. As this 1994 film opens, Payne has blown the cables off a packed elevator car, and threatens to blow the emergency brakes unless he gets a ransom. Jack foils the scheme, but Payne escapes by faking his own suicide. A few weeks later, Jack's bus driver friend boards his bus to start his daily route, and it promptly explodes. A nearby pay phone starts ringing, Jack answers the phone, and discovers the caller is Payne. The first bombing was just to get Jack's attention; there's another bus with a bomb on it, and the same fate will befall those aboard if he doesn't get his original ransom.
Caught in the middle is Annie Porter (Sandra Bullock in her Star-Making Role) as a passenger/hostage/love interest on the bus. Payne has, as the quote above indicates, placed a bomb on the bus she's riding. If the bus drops below 50... well, you get the idea. So, the bus must careen wildly through a city notorious for its traffic congestion, and if anyone attempts to leave the bus (under their own power or otherwise)... boom.
One final complication: When Jack gets on the bus and announces he's a cop, there's a street gangster on board who wrongly assumes Jack's after him and draws a gun. The gun goes off, wounding the bus driver. It's then up to Annie to take the wheel and keep the bus above 50 mph. Good thing she's a skilled driver... No, wait, she's a horrendous driver with a revoked license.
Noted for being very tense (Keanu Reeves has to first board the bus before he can warn the passengers, which nearly causes the very explosion he's attempting to prevent). Also has a lesser-known sequel, Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997), which again starred Sandra Bullock (this time in the primary role), and was widely panned for being very derivative of the original (re: bomb, vehicle, frazzled brunette, attractive love interest, etc.). A Speed 3 also exists.......as a Father Ted episode with the bomb being on a milkfloat.
Also notable in troperville for being written in part by Joss Whedon, who went uncredited despite a lot of the dialogue being his.
This film provides examples of:
- Action Insurance Gag: Jack needs to get onto the bus, and, having commandeered a car, he decides to jump from the car to the bus, but the car's door is in the way. Jack asks the owner if his car is insured, to which he answers in the affirmative, whereupon Jack brake-checks the bus with the door open, breaking the door off. The owner is suitably upset.
- Action Survivor: Annie, and most of the surviving bus passengers.
- Actor Allusion: When Jack is waiting for Payne to take the money from under the bin, Jack is standing in a shop called "MUTTS CUTS" which is who Jeff Daniels works for in Dumb and Dumber.
- Anger Born of Worry: After Jack's attempt to disarm the bus fails and his cart goes under the wheels, everyone aboard is scared he's been killed. When Ortiz and the others find and successfully rescue him, Annie's first words to Jack are, "You are a complete jerk, you know that?"
- Angry Black Man: The Jaguar owner, for good reasons.
- Are You Sure You Can Drive This Thing?: Annie, who had recently lost her license for speeding.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The monitors in Payne's hideout has multiple TV news feeds, the camera onboard the bus, and...a football game, which at one point he diverts his attention to entirely.
- Artistic License Physics:
- The bus side-swipes a car on the shoulder, which is being loaded onto a tow truck. Somehow this imparts enough momentum to send the car up the back of the truck and launch it through the air.
- Likewise, the bus somehow manages to jump an unfinished bridge, despite the fact that there was nothing that could actually launch it. The Making Of documentary pointed this out.
- When making the turn, the fear of the bus tipping over was uncalled for - this was shown on an episode of MythBusters, also covering the bus jump. It was Busted. There's no way the bus would have made it even WITH a launch ramp, let alone without one. As well, even if it had, everyone would have been considerably injured by the impact.
- That little cart Jack uses to go under the bus would have had to be very, very, very heavy to stay down on the ground while being towed at 50+ MPH. Granted, it is made of metal, but it's doubtful it was designed to be used at such speeds for the purpose of looking under speeding buses.
- Ax-Crazy: Howard Payne, although he defines himself as "eccentric."
- Baby Carriage: Subverted. It gets taken out by the bus, but turns out to be filled with aluminum cans.
- Best Served Cold: Payne, who took one look at his tiny severance package and went a little bit nuts.
- Big "NO!": Payne after realizing he's been had by the Camera Spoofing. As well as later on the train when his ransom money is ruined by an exploding dye pack.
- Blown Across the Room: Jack when Payne fakes his own death by explosion.
- Bond One-Liner: "Yeah? Well, I'm taller." from Jack. "Nothing personal" from Payne.
- Bottomless Magazines: Averted. Payne has Traven dead-to-rights and tries to execute him, but he's out of rounds for his shotgun.
- Brass Balls: When Jack Traven survives one of the many death defying moments he encounters over the course of the film a passenger cheerfully informs him:Ortiz: You're not too bright, man, but you got some big, round, hairy cojones.
Jack: That's...real gross, Ortiz.
- Bus Fu: Most of it less than intentional.
- Bus Full of Innocents: This one shouldn't have to be explained.
- Butt-Monkey: Glenn Plummer's character from who Jack borrows a car (which he wrecks). In the sequel, he claims that he's just bought a condo, only for it to be destroyed.
- Camera Spoofing: The police fake out Payne's bus camera by transmitting recorded footage on the same frequency. Traven specifically tells everyone to remain as still as possible to make sure it works. It does, but after everyone's off the bus, Payne catches on because one passenger put down her purse in the middle of the video.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Payne quite enjoys the media's depiction of him.News Anchor: [...] The two dead are a female passenger and the driver of another bus, both blown up by the bomber. And the other people in jeopardy are, of course, the passengers of the bus, held hostage at the whim of a madman.Payne: (chuckles) "The whim of a madman!" I like that!
- Car Skiing: Done using the passengers as a counterbalance to navigate a hard turn.
- Catchphrase: "Pop quiz, hotshot." Becomes a Phrase Catcher when Jack gets the line from Harry and Payne.
- Character Development: Subtle, but Stephens, the wimpy tourist starts off as rather annoying and usually providing unhelpful commentary from the sidelines, but as the situation escalates, he tries to pull his weight a little more, such as checking underneath the bus when it looks like Jack's been pulled under.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- The detonator with the "dead man's handle".
- Harry telling Jack that after another thirty years of police work, he'll get a tiny pension and a cheap gold watch.
- The watch on the bus bomb.
- When Jack is on top of the subway train, he has to noisily move from an oncoming tunnel light. However, this results in Payne finding out his whereabouts. A few minutes later, after his money is tainted by the paint bomb, Payne ascends to the top of the train and fights Jack . During the fight, Jack notices another tunnel light heading their way, so he pushes up Payne's head, resulting in the light beheading him.
- Payne referring to Annie as "the wildcat behind the wheel"; Jack realizes there's a camera on-board when he sees Annie's jacket that sports the logo of the University of Arizona, home of the Wildcats.
- Cluster F-Bomb: While not really an F-bomb, it's an S-bomb courtesy of Tuneman, the Jaguar owner.Tuneman: Whoa shit! Whoa shit! WHOA SHIT!
- Collapsing Lair: Rigged by Payne to explode, killing Harry.
- Contrived Coincidence:
- The bus also just happens to have a trigger-happy gangbanger on it, who shoots the driver accidentally and allows Annie to take his place.
- The police try to trick Payne by finding the video feed from the CCTV camera in the bus, looping it and sending it to Payne. He doesn't notice the change because he just so happened to go to the bathroom just as they were making the switch.
- Convection Schmonvection: Averted - when the first bus explodes Jack doesn't come closer than ten feet of it and still has to hold his arm up in front of his face.
- Cool Car:
- That poor Jaguar...
- Also the big oversized truck with all the cops on the long flatbed with more than enough room to carry all the passengers, if the villain was not intent on keeping them on the bus.
- Cop Killer: Howard Payne, who despite being a former policeman himself has absolutely no reservations about killing fellow officers. When Harry nails his identity and address, he's already wired the place to blow, killing Harry and perhaps every other officer on his team in the process.
- Cowboy Cop: Jack's the trope namer for Shoot the Hostage, for cryin out loud!
- Crazy Enough to Work: The ultimate plan to get the hostages off the bus.
- Crazy-Prepared: Payne is prepared for virtually every contingency, something Jack catches on to. When he diverts to the airport so Payne won't be able to monitor them through the news, he refuses to evacuate the bus because he's sure Payne has accounted for that possibility and will know if they try.
- Cringe Comedy: Alan Ruck's character Doug provides a lot of it.
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: After Jack finds out Harry's been killed, he yells at Payne, "I'm gonna rip your fucking spine out, I swear to God!"
- Da Chief: Capt. "Mac" McMahon, whether he is guiding the booby-trapped bus from a chopper, or riding on a speeding flatbed truck with only one handhold, he is the kind of calm, cool, and collected superior police officer a hero cop like Traven needs to see this crisis through.
- Deadfoot Leadfoot: Inverted when the bus driver gets shot, played straight when a subway motorman gets killed.
- Dead Man Switch: Payne uses this on his vest bomb.
- Defiant to the End: In the opening sequence, Payne manages to take Harry hostage and Harry tells him "fuck you". This trope is then discussed because Payne laments that modern people can't seem to think of a better "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner than that.Payne: In two hundred years, we've come from "I regret that I have but one life to give for my country" to "fuck you"?!
- Despair Event Horizon: Jack almost crosses it when Harry dies in the raid at Payne's house.
- Didn't Think This Through:
- Harry when he tells Jack to shoot him while Payne is using him as a Human Shield. While it does cause Payne to drop him, Harry isn't too happy about being shot and lets Jack know it.
- Also Payne's Evil Plan isn't very well thought-out despite him spending two years planning it. He deliberately lets Jack on the bus just to fuck with him, thus giving Jack the opportunity to foil his plans. Even without Jack's involvement, there's no way the LAPD would fork over that much cash without a way to trace it, e.g. the dye bomb.
- Disposable Pilot: Subverted. Bus driver Sam is shot but presumably survives. However, it does provide the perfect excuse to get him off the bus and let Annie take over.
- Played straight at the end, when Payne not only kills the train conductor, no one in the crowd even noticed his body.
- Double Take: When Jack (still in Maurice's car) is trying to get Sam the bus driver's attention:Jack: (yelling) I'm a cop! LAPD! There's a bomb on your bus! There is a bomb on your bus!
Sam: (can't hear him) What?
Maurice: (yelling) There's a bomb — WHAT?
- Drives Like Crazy: Mostly averted. All the difficulties come from maintaining speed. However, Annie loses her license for speeding before the first movie starts (which is why she's taking the bus in the first place).
- Early-Bird Cameo: The driver of the black Jaguar can briefly be spotted as Jack speeds onto the highway, and catches up just in time for Jack to take control of his car.
- Elevator Failure: Payne blows the cables on a packed elevator, then wants $3 million or he blows the emergency brakes and kills the passengers.
- Emergency Refuelling: When Jack stabs a hole in the bus's fuel tank, he tries to call in a fuel truck to keep the bus going. Unfortunately, there's no way they can get a fuel truck out in time given the rate of fuel loss, so the protagonists must figure out a way to get everyone off the bus before the fuel runs out and the bus drops below 50 mph.Annie: We're leaking gas?
Annie: What, did you need another challenge?!
- Eureka Moment:
- As Harry is discussing Payne's unusual behavior, he thinks out loud that Payne knows every method the bomb squad uses to disarm bombs, then realizes Payne must have worked as a bomb squad member.
- When Jack, in the middle of his Heroic BSoD, notices Annie's jacket. It's a University of Arizona jacket; Payne had been referring to her as a "wildcat" the whole time; this tips Jack that Payne has had a camera on-board the whole time.
- Even Evil Has Standards: For all his terror and destruction, Payne is genuinely offended by the decidedly generic way Harry stood up to him in the face of an explosive end, and he angrily laments how badly America's patriotic fervor has decayed in his day.Payne: In two hundred years, we've come from "I regret that I have but one life to give for my country" to "fuck you"?!
- Evil Is Hammy: In a role that's practically written for Dennis Hopper.
- Evil Old Folks: Payne, a retired police officer.
- Explosive Leash: First used on Harry, then on Annie at the end of the film.
- FaceHeel Turn: Payne sort of falls into this. Even though he's never shown on the good side, it's revealed that he was a bomb squad cop who got discharged from the force after he was wounded in an explosion and is making his bomb threats and demanding the ransoms because he feels, as he tells Jack, that he spent his life earning the money.
- Failsafe Failure: Subverted twice and they're both Payne's fault:
- The failsafes on the elevator work as expected, but Payne has rigged those to explode, too, so he would be able to drop the elevator whenever he wants.
- Payne machine-gunning the metro train's conductor also shoots up most of the controls, including the brakes and (apparently, and quite ironically) the deadman's switch.
- Faking the Dead: When Payne's elevator plan falls through and he can't use Harry as a hostage, he sets off an explosion to make the cops think he blew himself up.
- Fanservice Extra: When the SWAT team are rescuing people from an office building elevator that's about to drop, one of the passengers is a brunette in a brown business suit. As they help her down, her skirt rides up revealing a white thong.
- Faux Affably Evil: When Payne isn't spouting sadistic pop-quizzes, he typically addresses Jack like a joking, teasing uncle would his favourite nephew, but there's no hiding the mocking condescension in his voice especially when he mocks Jack over Harry's death.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Stephens and Ortiz don't like each other very much throughout most of the crisis, but by the time they finally get off the bus, they're both locked in a bro-hug.
- Flashed-Badge Hijack: It doesn't work at first, then Jack draws his gun and gets the car.Maurice: This is my car! It's not stolen...
Jack: (drawing gun) It is now. Move over.
- Flirting Under Fire: Jack and Annie constantly flirt throughout the movie.
- Follow That Car: Part of the Flashed-Badge Hijack, above.
- When Jack warns Payne that there will be fifty cops waiting for him in the basement should he try to escape, Payne notes that this is "standard flanking deployment". His familiarity with SWAT procedure is an early clue that he's a retired cop.
- Helen's anxiety which ultimately leads to her death is established earlier in a conversation with Annie, when she says she gets tense driving on the freeway, hence why she takes the bus.
- Freak Out!: Jack briefly loses it when Payne kills Harry. Annie manages to talk him down.
- From Bad to Worse: The Movie;
- Jack is unable to board the bus before it gets on the freeway; he's panicking so much that he breaks the glass door running alongside it, scaring the driver, who takes Annie's advice and drives away before he gets a look at Jack's badge.
- Jack is able to Flashed-Badge Hijack a fast car, but is unable to catch the bus before it goes over fifty, arming the bomb.
- He is able to inform the driver about the bomb via a written message that luckily flies against the window long enough to read it, but he then has jump on board - all without letting the bus drop below fifty.
- The bus driver is injured by an armed and unstable passenger, and the only other driver available is a woman riding due to a suspended license... for speeding.
- The bus is forced into a crowded street, where dodging pedestrians Too Dumb to Live (crossing right after a speeding police escort?!) puts them in increasing danger of triggering the bomb or tipping over on hairpin turns.
- Hope Spot: The bus finds a finished but unopened highway, enabling the bus driver to be taken off the bus - but one of the passengers attempts to leave and is killed by Payne.
- The highway is not in fact finished, forcing them to jump a fifty-foot gap.
- Hope Spot #2: Jack gets the bus to LAX, where it is able to circle the runways freely. Then things go completely wrong; Jack ruptures the fuel tank trying to disarm the bomb and Harry is killed in trap set by Payne.
- ...then Jack realizes that Payne is monitoring the interior of the bus by camera, which enables them to evacuate the bus via Camera Spoofing. Payne isn't even aware when the bus blows up, enabling them to attempt to capture him at the ransom dropoff.
- ...and then Payne realizes that the bus blew up, kidnaps Annie, and wires her with explosives to use her to collect the ransom.
- Jack pursues Payne and Annie onto a subway car, suckers him onto the roof, then finally decapitates him with a signal light.
- Finally, he reunites with Annie, only to find she's still handcuffed to a subway pole because Payne was carrying the key. And they're running out of track. And the brakes are broken. Jesus.
- Game-Breaking Injury: To the bus, when Jack punches a hole in the gas tank trying to keep from getting run over.Annie: What's that smell?
Jack: It's gas.
Annie: We're leaking gas?!
Jack: We are now.
Annie: What, did you feel like you needed another challenge or something?
- Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Discussed at the end:Jack: I have to warn you, I've heard relationships based on intense experiences never work.
Annie: OK. We'll have to base it on sex then.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Stephens repeats Keanu's "Fuck me!" over the phone as "Oh, Darn!"
- Got Volunteered: "Sir, Harry volunteers to examine the device."
- Guilt Complex: A mild case where Annie confesses that she was profoundly relieved when a panicking woman was killed by a secondary bomb when she tried to disembark instead of her, thinking for a split second that was the primary bomb that could have killed them all. Jack reassures her that reaction is a perfectly acceptable human response to such an extreme situation and she has nothing to feel guilty about.
- Gut Feeling: Category II: Jack reads the elevator situation and intuits that Payne will kill the hostages even if they pay up and decides they need to be rescued ASAP. Harry is reluctant ("Mac outranks your gut, so we wait."), but goes along and they do indeed save everyone. In the third act of the movie, Jack again knows that Payne is up to something when he hasn't shown up to take the ransom.
- Heroic BSoD: Jack has a brief meltdown after Payne informs him that he killed Harry.
- Hero's Evil Predecessor: Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper) to Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves), a former member of the Atlanta PD bomb squad, turned mad bomber. This becomes central to the plot as Payne not only uses his extensive knowledge of explosives and police procedure to stay two steps ahead of Jack and his friend, Harry. He tries to convince Jack that they're Not So Different. It doesn't work.Payne: (over the phone) Why are they messing with me? Do they think I'm doing this for fun?!
Jack: Aren't you?
Payne: (offended) Oh! That's not fair, Jack. You don't know how I feel. You don't even know me.
Jack: (seething) I know you want a shitload of money you didn't earn.
Payne: (pissed) Oh, I earned it. See, I was like you once. They gave me a medal too. A medal, a pinkslip, and a, 'sorry about your hand!!
- He's Back: When Jack notices the University of Arizona logo on Annie's sweatshirt and realizes that's why Howard's been calling her a wildcat this whole time.
- High Concept: It doesn't come much higher-concept when you can have the villain outline the whole plot in one line of dialogue.
- Hollywood Healing: Though Harry is seen using a crutch to get around in the aftermath of Jack shooting him in the leg, by the time the main plot of the film kicks off, he's healed completely enough to be part of a SWAT team assault. The time between this and his wounding is unspecified, but not hinted to be more than a few weeks/months at best.
- Hostage for MacGuffin: Averted. Jack shoots the hostage in the leg to immobilize him.
- Human Shield: Payne uses Harry as one. Jack just shoots Harry (non-fatally, of course).
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face:
- The armed man on the bus ends up shooting the driver when Ortiz tackles him.
- When Jack shoots out the lock in the subway station, without knowing what is behind what he's shooting at (a crowd of people screaming and running), in violation of one of the key rules of gun safety. Granted, he's in a bit of a hurry, but even so.
- I Shall Return: At the airport, Jack manages to convince Payne to let him off the bus to arrange the ransom. The other passengers are obviously unenthusiastic at being left behind, but Jack answers "Don't worry, I won't go far." A few minutes later, the hostages look in amazement to see Jack in front of them being towed on a service cart to attempt to disarm the bomb while the bus is in motion.
- Idiot Ball:
- Jack only goes for his badge to show the driver after the bus has already begun to speed up and drive away. If he'd grabbed it and shown it to the driver first, the bus would have likely stopped.
- Jack has negotiated with Payne to take the injured bus driver off the bus. Once he's gone, Helen sneaks by and also tries to leave, causing Payne to blow the steps and send her under the wheels. This isn't necessarily stupid on Helen's part; she's old and in the middle of a nervous breakdown. It is stupid on the part of the cops, who have been told matter of fact that Payne will blow up the bus if anyone gets off yet encourage her rather than immediately pulling away to prevent it.
- The cops neglecting to turn the tracker in the money on as soon as it's in place (one of the squad members assumes that there's no way Payne can get to the money with all the eyes on it). The writers themselves call this one out in the commentary.
- Payne referring to Annie as a "wildcat" leads to Jack realizing he has a camera on the bus. This one can be chalked up to pure arrogance.
- Impressive Pyrotechnics: Goodbye bus and plane. What, you think they were going to waste a perfectly good bus bomb?
- Incredibly Lame Pun:
- Jack explaining to the bus passengers that he is going to try to "defuse" the situation.
- Jack tells Annie that Payne "lost his head".
- Infant Immortality: Played with. See Baby Carriage above.
- Insistent Terminology: Payne: "I'm not crazy — poor people are crazy. I'm eccentric."
- Insult Backfire:
- Jack has one for Payne after the elevator bomb plan is foiled.Payne: There will come a time, boy, when you wish you never met me.
Jack: Mister, I'm already there.
- Payne is amused by the news coverage of himself.Payne: "The whim of a madman," I like that!
- Jack has one for Payne after the elevator bomb plan is foiled.
- Ironic Echo: The "pop quiz" line from Harry is repeated twice by Payne to Jack. Jack later attempts to use it on Payne as one, but it backfires badly when it turns out he's actually talking to Annie with a bomb strapped to her. Payne then repeats the "Shoot the hostage" line to Jack by telling him "I don't think you can shoot her."
- Join The Police Force They Said: Discussed by Harry and Jack while Jack is being lowered down the elevator shaft.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.
- This is actually Payne's motivation for his bombings. He too is a former bomb squad member. When he lost a finger, they let him go with that same pension and watch. He build it into the bus bomb to make a point and also because he knows Harry will make the connection, realize he's a former police officer and track him down to his old house, with a waiting trap.
- Kick the Dog:
- Payne's moment comes early on when he kills the worker who walked in on him by stabbing him in the head.
- Twenty minutes later, he blows up a bus with a driver on board for no better reason than to get Jack's attention.
- Payne later proves his extremity by killing the nervous Helen, after letting the wounded bus driver off the bus.
- Payne deliberately left clues in the design of the bus bomb so the cops would figure out his identity, track down his house, and be blown up by the trap he left there.
- The Lancer: Older Sidekick Harry Temple.
- Large Ham: Dennis Hopper is in rare form in this one.
- Laughably Evil: Payne.
- Lawman Gone Bad: Howard Payne was a former member of the Atlanta PD bomb squad, who turned Mad Bomber after being forcibly retired, due to an accident which injured his hand. But he was ineligible to collect his pension. Howard did not take this well.
- The Load: Averted, the civilians caught in both the elevator and bus situations help one another out whenever they can; some of the executives pull a woman up from a hole in the elevator, Annie takes over the bus when the driver is shot,three women tend the driver's gunshot wound, Ortiz, the big construction worker helps get the driver off the bus and saves Jack from being pulled under the bus, even Stephens, the wimpy tourist checks under the bus when Jack's in danger.
- Low Clearance: This is how the bad guy meets his end. As he and the protagonist are fighting on the top of a runaway subway train, he gets clocked by an overhead light, chopping off his head.
- Mad Bomber: Howard Payne. Justified because he used to be a bomb squad member, and thus this is the method of destruction he's most experienced with.
- The Main Characters Do Everything:
- When Jack gets off the bus at the airport, he goes under the bus on a speeding cart to look at and try to disarm the bomb, not any of the other present policemen. Granted, he could have been the only bomb expert there, but the LAPD had had plenty of time to pool other resources on the highway and at the airport. Then again, it's entirely possible he was the only officer crazy enough to volunteer to slide underneath a moving bus with a bomb attached to it.
- Also, when they figure out Payne's identity, Harry leads the S.W.A.T. team to his house despite still recovering from his gunshot wound.
- Meaningful Echo:
- Mistaken for Racist: When Jack attempts to Flashed-Badge Hijack an expensive sports car, the black driver's initial reaction is to insist that the car is not stolen, but indeed his own.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Annie, after being forced to run down a baby carriage... Jack quickly informs her that there was no baby in the carriage, only empty cans.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Howard Payne.
- News Monopoly: Every single news outlet is covering the story of the speeding bus, to the point that they're interfering with public safety. This leads to the decision to route the bus to an airport. Truth in Television for Los Angeles police chases. Later subverted in that the media plays a significant part in resolving the matter. The news teams agree to stop filming from the airport boundaries, and one crew creates the looping footage on police request.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
- Payne's entire motivation is that the police stiffed him out the pension he deserved and gave him a pathetic retirement gift, despite years of dedicated service and risking his life daily as a member of the bomb squad. To be fair, he does have a point.
- While examining the bomb under the bus, Jack almost gets crushed and is forced to stick his screwdriver into something so that he can hang on. Unfortunately, that something happens to be the fuel tank.
- Standard procedure as it may be, sneaking a paint bomb into Payne's sack full of cash doesn't do Jack any favors when Payne accidentally triggers it, sending him into a violent Villainous Breakdown, though one could argue that putting Payne into berserker mode means he can no longer out-think Jack, which ultimately results in his death by low clearance.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: If Payne hadn't referred to Annie as "the wildcat behind the wheel", Jack never would have realized there was a camera on the bus, and the police would never have been able to loop the footage.
- The '90s: The film's setting.
- Nobody Poops:
- Averted. Payne is shown coming out of his bathroom, which is important because it keeps him from noticing the looped camera feed on the bus when it's executed.
- Played straight on the bus. It would be a little excessive to think no one had to pee. Though given the short time frame and adrenaline, it's reasonable to assume they wouldn't need to or would put it out of mind if they did.
- No OSHA Compliance: The subway train has neither Dead Man Switch nor overspeed failsafe. And what's with the unfinished freeway with unblocked access ramps?
- Averted in the prologue with the elevator. This is one of the few movies that actually acknowledges that elevators have emergency brakes that would stop them if the cables are cut. Unfortunately, the bomber has thought of those.
- Nothing Personal: Said by Payne as he jams a knife into an innocent workman that blunders into his elevator bomb plot.
- Not So Different:
- Invoked by Jack during his Mexican Standoff with the criminal on the bus too get him to calm down and put his gun away.
- Also, invoked by Payne when he tells Jack that he did earn the money he wants for ransom.Payne: I got a medal too, Jack. A medal and a pink slip and a 'sorry 'bout your hand'.
- Off-the-Shelf FX: It's pretty obvious that the train that runs off the tracks near the end of the movie is a miniature model.
- Off with His Head!: Payne's ultimate fate.
- Oh, Crap!:
- At least three different times, usually in response to discovering a bomb.
- One interesting one comes at the end when Payne sees the oncoming signal light.
- Jack drops a Precision F-Strike when he gets a good look at the bomb on the bus. For good reason as "There's enough C4 on this thing to blow a hole in the world."
- Jack and Annie realizing they have to make a hard right at 50+ mphAnnie: That is a dead end!
Jack: You can make it.
Annie: We're gonna tip over!
Jack: (beat) You're right, we're gonna tip over. EVERYONE ON THIS SIDE OF THE BUS NOW.
- Annie has a HUGE one when she thinks that she's run over a baby. Turns out the stroller was full of cans.
- Harry has a slightly more subtle one seconds before he and his SWAT team are blown away by Payne's booby-trapped house.
- Only in It for the Money: Although Payne would wish he did have a higher purpose behind his bomb threats.
- ...Or So I Heard: After Payne blows up the elevator minutes before the deadline, Harry guesses he couldn't hold his wad; "It's a common problem among middle-aged men...or so I'm told."
- Panty Shot: When one of the female hostages is being helped off the elevator by the SWAT team her skirt rides up and we get a shot of her butt wearing white panties. On the DVD Commentary, the filmmakers say this was a "happy accident".
- Pet the Dog: Payne does reluctantly permit Jack to remove the injured driver from the bus, but it's immediately subverted when he sees Helen trying to sneak off after and blew up the steps she was on with a smaller bomb just to prove a point.
- Police are Useless: Subverted, in that the police are on top of the situation immediately with an escort, mapping a survivable route from a following police helicopter and blocking off side streets to give the boobytrapped bus a clear path. It helps that a fellow off-duty cop is on board.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Payne, who jokingly refers to poor people as "crazy".
- Precision F-Strike: All throughout the movie.
- Product Placement: The bus is covered with ads for Santa Monica Bank, which aren't out of place, as that bank heavily advertises on the Big Blue Bus system. The one on the rear is somewhat meaningful: "Money isn't everything. (Yeah, right)".
- Profane Last Words: Discussed by Payne when he takes Harry hostage at the beginning. He laments (somewhat) that it's become the standard method of showing a man's Defiant to the End.Howard Payne: In two hundred years, we've come from "I regret that I have but one life to give for my country" to "fuck you"?!
- Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: Subverted.
- Ramming Always Works:
- Jack and Annie somehow survive an impending crash on a runaway subway car by making it faster. Speeding up made it jump the tracks on a turn so it was running for awhile unpowered. While a bit of a stretch, this could be considered preferable to staying on the tracks (and being powered the whole time) and crashing into a dead end wall that is more fortified.
- The near half-dozen times Annie has to plough through traffic in order to maintain speed.
- Red Shirt: The workman killed at the beginning and the subway motorman near the end both quite literally vanish once killed.
- Red Shirt Army: The SWAT team who are killed by Payne's exploding house.
- Red Right Hand: Payne lost a thumb in the line of duty.
- Rescue Romance: After the bus hostages are rescued and the bus explodes harmlessly unoccupied, Jack and Annie discuss this trope.Annie: You're not going to get mushy on me, are you?
Jack: Maybe. I might.
Annie: I hope not, 'cause you know, relationships that start under intense circumstances, they never last.
Jack: Oh yeah?
Annie: Yeah, I've done extensive study on this.
- Revealing Skill: Part of what tips off Harry to Payne's identity is that he's too competent at bomb-making. Serial bombers tend to stick to one type of bomb, while Payne's bombs are designed to outwit the very methods used by the bomb squad to disable them.
- Rule of Cool: The bus jump. A rather delightful behind-the-scenes featurette on the DVD goes into great detail about how the bus jump is completely impossible in real life.
- Rule of Three: Although the main plot revolves around the bus dilemma, the movie is made up by three cat-and-mouse scenarios with Payne: the elevator, the bus, and the subway finale.
- Runaway Train: At the end of the film when the subway brakes malfunction.
- Sacrificial Lamb: Helen, a woman who tries to escape in a panic, only to murdered by Payne using a second bomb both to show he means business and also because he is an Ax-Crazy psycho.
- Sacrificial Lion:
- Jack's partner, Harry Temple, played by Jeff Daniels.
- Also the bus driver Bob, a friend of Jack's who is killed by Payne in a separate explosion simply to get Jack's attention.
- Sequel Goes Foreign: Speed 2: Cruise Control takes place in the Caribbean.
- Shoot the Hostage: The Trope Namer. Jack does exactly that near the beginning of the movie when his partner Harry is held captive by Payne. Payne makes sure he can't do that the next time by strapping his bomb to the hostage instead of himself.
- Shoot Out the Lock: Jack does this when chasing Payne through the subway station.
- Shout-Out: Graham Yost named Jack Traven after writer B. Traven, who wrote the book The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
- Slo-Mo Big Air:
- That bus is damn aerodynamic.
- The subway car's launch is pretty impressive, too.
- Smug Snake: Payne. He thinks he's always one step ahead. But then he gets so overconfident that he fails to monitor his screen when one minute of footage is being looped over and over in place of what's actually happening. And then later, he climbs on top of a subway train in blind rage, and gets beheaded as a result. He also doesn't seem to consider the possibility that maybe the police aren't going to just give him millions of dollars without rigging a trap to try and trace it / him, such as the dye pack bomb that blows in his face and stains his ransom money. Of course, Payne is just a ex-Bomb Squad member who's only real training was in how to disarm bombs. In fact, it's only the bomb part of his plan that goes off without a hitch, while everything else in his plan falls apart rather quickly.
- Stealth Pun: Payne's undoing is that he views himself as above Jack. So he's defeated by someone who is (literally) beneath him.
- Strapped to a Bomb: Annie
- Stuff Blowing Up: When it's an action film that revolves around a Mad Bomber it's inevitable there'll be a lot of explosions.
- Survivor Guilt: Annie has a bout of this after the booby trap on the bus steps kills a passenger, confessing that she first thought it was the bus's true bomb that had detonated and feeling horrible that she was relieved to still be alive. Jack does a swift and skilled job in removing the guilt from her mind.
- Tactful Translation: Courtesy of Stephens, whom Jack instructs to relay what he sees of the bomb to Harry on the phone.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Jack describes the amount of C4 on the bus is enough "to put a hole in the world."
- Token Romance: Triple subverted, and arguably deconstructed, over the course of the two films. Annie initially insists that they are a bad idea, as "relationships based on intense circumstances never work out". At the end of the film, Jack throws this back in her face as a Meaningful Echo, to which she replies "I guess we'll have to base it on sex then", and they decide to pursue the relationship anyway. But the start of the second film reveals that the relationship didn't work out, just as Annie initially predicted.
- Too Dumb to Live: It is hard to comprehend the kind of panic and fear a bystander must feel in that situation, but if an LAPD officer tells you that A) there's a bomb on the bus but also B) no one can leave, there's probably a good reason why. Predictably, a scared lady tries to get off onto a LAPD safety car, and is killed by one of Payne's booby traps. What makes it worse is that the cops on the safety car are encouraging her and reaching to help her, despite knowing that Payne has forbidden it.
- Try Not to Die: Da Chief frequently tells people "Don't get dead."
- Unlucky Extra: The "black guy with a sports car," whose car gets Flashed Badge Hijacked and wrecked by Jack shows up again in the sequel, where his boat gets hijacked, this time by Alex. He's given the name Maurice in the sequel.
- Villain of Another Story: Well Anti-Villain, but Ray the small time crook boarded on the bus who briefly held Jack at gunpoint out of fear of getting arrested for his Noodle Incident crime would qualify, this making him a Token Evil Teammate of the bus passenger hostages. Jack managed to overpowered and hand-cuffed him. Ray would later form an Enemy Mine with Jack and the passengers to cooperate to get everyone out alive and to make up for accidentally shooting the bus driver Sam during a scuffle with Jack and Ortiz and wrestle the gun out of Ray's hands.
- Villainous Breakdown: Payne's breakdown kicks in when the dye bomb Jack placed in the money bag detonates, permanently rendering the cash useless and making Payne's efforts All for Nothing.Payne: "YOU BASTAAAAARD! I'M COMING FOR YOU, JACK! AAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!"
- Waxing Lyrical: Payne says at one point, "Be prepared! This is the Boys Scout marching song."
- The Wildcats: A major plot point.
- Wire Dilemma: Subverted in that Jack finds out he is unable to cut any wire because of the complex nature of the bomb.
- You're Insane!: Payne has a comeback for this one: Poor people are insane - he's eccentric.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: No further mention of Sam or his fate are made after he is evacuated from the bus.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?:
- Averted. Payne has Jack at his mercy in the elevator and does try to just shoot him, but he's out of ammo. He later shoots at Jack with a submachine gun, but runs out of ammo before he can hit him.
- Played straight in the third act leading to the train sequence.