Not Quite a Legend Yet More Than a Myth
When her sister is taken by a gang of white slavers, Margaret (Karen Kopins) needs a hero in order to bring her home. It is here that we meet Jake Speed (Wayne Crawford), a hero of pulp thriller novels who now comes into the real world. With Margaret and his sidekick Desmond Floyd (Dennis Christopher), Jake goes after the kidnappers in a southern African country in the midst of their civil war. However, it soon turns out Jake got much more than he planned for when he learns that the ringleader of the slavers is his own arch-nemesis: the wicked and totally insane Sid (John Hurt).
“Jake Speed” is a film that is filled with romance, death-defying stunts, spellbinding scenery shot on location in Zimbabwe, an off-the-wall performance by the late John Hurt and lots of cheesy humor and acting. But it does prove to us that without a worthy foe, there is no such thing as a hero.
I love a good bad movies. The movie begins with some young people being abducted during a trip to Europe, one of them being chased in one of those ridiculous movie chases where people run for miles from a criminal, never really trying to escape or screaming for help. We then go to a family dinner, where the family of a kidnapped girl are speaking with “government nitwits” about how to get her back. The grandfather suggests contacting fictional characters, especially pulp novel hero, Jake Speed. It then just so happens that an associate of Mr. Speed has convinced him to take their case.
Speed looks like a drunken 1980s college professor and doesn’t even say anything important until he says, “Sometimes you gotta do things the hard way.” “Why?” “It reads better.” Oy, yes this movie is so awful that it is good. It has all what is necessary in a stupid movie — bad dialogue, good actors making bizarre choices and stupid characters making idiotic choices.
American filmmakers Wayne Crawford and Andrew Lane. share production and writing credits, while the former is the main star and the latter the director. It is a semi-parodic homage to pulp adventure novels.
The synth score by Mark Snow is rather out of place. Director Andrew Lane has little sense of pacing, style or tone. The film is visually unappealing thanks to cinematographer Bryan Loftus’s excessive use of brown that brings out the ugliest aspects of each location.
Crawford isn’t bad at playing the stereotypically cocky hero type but he is an obnoxious character and we are unable to root him on. Karen Kopins is relentlessly grating and the numerous scenes of Crawford and Kopins’ bickering take up too much screen time and show the lack of any real chemistry between the two. But then, the idea of a paperback hero existing in real life is a neat touch and, occasionally, results in some quite clever pieces of screenwriting. The action scenes are entertaining, especially the finale which features a flight of stairs turning into a slide trap that pulls its hapless victims into a pit of hungry lions.
The main story conceit never works. The gimmick is that Jake and his writer-assistant create a convoluted storyline just for the sake of creating their novels. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the film and will probably watch it many more times. After all, it is all about being entertained and that does not mean that we can’t groan.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original 35mm interpositive
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original lossless mono audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Paperback Wishes, Cinematic Dreams, a new interview with co-writer/producer/director Andrew Lane
The Hard Way Reads Better, a new interview with producer William Fay
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys