How fitting that the most machine-tooled movie of the moment should be called Speed. Speed isn't just a title; it's more of a declaration . . . and an admission too. A movie called Speed is bound to be simple-minded. It's telling you that it's about one thing and one thing only - momentum - and that it's proud to be contemporary mainstream American cinema incarnate: high concept in a hurry.

So it's awfully hard to sort one's contradictory reactions to the film (no, not to the film, to the product). One can't really attack it because the picture is essentially trivial and careful not to take itself seriously. Indeed, Speed presents itself as a joke to be shared with audiences flattered into thinking themselves too knowing to take valour, bravery and self-sacrifice at face value. Well, what's to be done with the conventions of a dead genre if not to parade and parody them shamelessly?

Speed's blatant whorishness is very pleasurable, if very Hollywood. The movie's cynicism is a relief - you're not being asked to care about the screaming passengers on the bus or the bomb beneath them or the psychopath threatening them (Dennis Hopper) or even the fast action hero, Keanu Reeves (right), who's just a wind-up toy - though there would be a better chance of getting a performance out of a wind-up toy.

Speed presumes that we don't mind having our nervous systems worked over mechanically. And it's right. There is a place for that. But after True Lies, On Deadly Ground and Demolition Man, some of us are getting heartily sick of leaving the cinema feeling like Mr Bond's vodka martini: shaken but not stirred.

(Photograph omitted)

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