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Jake Speed

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In Paris, Maureen Winston (Becca C. Ashley) and her friends are enjoying a trip to Paris. However, all is not well. Two thugs have been tracking her and a girlfriend, and when they return to their hotel room, the thugs strike. Maureen takes off running, but it is no use... She and her friend are kidnapped.

Back in America, her father is heaping loads of guilt onto her sister Margaret (Karen Kopins), since she encouraged her to travel and see new places. Grandpa (Leon Ames) won't stand for this, and as the police are doing jack shit, he offers a solution: "There are a few, a very few men. Remo. Mack Bolan. Jake Speed. In this case, I think Jake Speed's the man for the job."

Jake Speed (Wayne Crawford) is a man of action, an adventurer with no equal; especially when it comes to weaponry (he posesses a seemingly magical shotgun called "The Kid."), and especially with twin revolver-toting sidekick Desmond Floyd (Dennis Christopher) by his side. As Pop puts it to a disbelieving family member, "They defeat evil where it exists, pinhead!"

There's only one minor snag: Jake doesn't exist. Jake is the hero of a series of Doc Savage-style pulp action novels. All seems lost.

However, someone leaves Maggie a note to meet a party in a tough Paris bar. That someone turns out to be Jake and Des, in the flesh.

As it turns out, Jake and Des do not work for money (as Jake puts it, "If all this were about money, I'd be working for the wrong side most of the time."). Nope, it turns out that Jake and Des write the novels themselves (under the name Reno Mellon: Jake's favorite town and Des' favorite breakfast food) based off of the adventures they have, seeing it as their reward. They reveal that Maureen has been kidnapped by white slavers and has been taken to an unnamed African country. The trio fly there to root out the leader and rescue Maureen.

Jake turns out to be the golden-boy hero he is in the books, the last of the original nice guys, and Maggie soon finds herself falling for him (despite his habit of doing things the hard way beacuse "it reads better."). After a few twists and turns (and a blown plan or two), the gang wind up in the clutches of Jake's archenemy Sid (a wonderfully over-the-top John Hurt), the ringleader of the slavery ring. He takes Maggie and plans to sell her just like the other girls... but not if Jake and Des (with a little help from their combination assault vehicle/30's roadster H.A.R.V.) have anything to say about it.

Can Jake and Des foil Sid's plan, rescue the girls, and put out another best-seller? All of that can be answered with just a turn of the page.

Verdict?

Touted as New World's big summer action film for 1986, the film sank like a stone at the box office. While it's easy to see why (the pacing is glacial at points, and Crawford's performance can be a bit flat at times), it's one worth checking out.

The three leads (despite Crawford's sometimes-flat performance) have a great chemistry. You can believe Maggie is falling for Jake, and you can believe that Jake and Des have been pals and brothers-in-arms for years.

John Hurt gives a wonderfully OTT performance as Sid, sending up the villains of pulp novels well. We never get any motivation for why Sid is evil aside from "I can do anything I want", and that's all we really need.

The writing (by director Andrew Lane and Crawford, who had written the classic Valley Girl years prior) is top notch, exploring the notion of a 40's era optimistic man of action dropped into the cynical and depressing 80s, doing good for those in need. It never delves too far into whether Jake and Des are real or con men, but it really doesn't need to. It lets you decide for yourself. It also has a bit of heart, as Jake deeply believes in the power of good over evil ("When you're right, nothing can hurt you." He says at one point). This shows why Sid and Jake make great arch-enemies: they represnt the extreme opposite of each other.

The action is pretty good as well, highlighted by a bit with jake's escape from a pit of lions, and a nicely-done cliffside chase between Sid's sedan and the heroes' H.A.R.V. Underscored with a fun electronic score by future "X-Files" theme writer Mark Snow, it's incredibly memorable.

All in all, with a little tightening and a better performance by Crawford, this could be a classic. However, that's not to say that the product we got isn't good at all.

Notice any mistakes? Review

Strengths: The leads' chemistry, the writing, the score.

Weaknesses? Needed some more editing and a better performance by Wayne Crawford.

Our rating: 7 out of 10


Review Written by The Doctor:  Contact  |  More Reviews by The Doctor
Jake Speed