Andrew Lane/ USA/ 1986/ 100 mins
Available on Blu-ray Mon 4 Jun 2018
When her sister is kidnapped by a gang of white slavers, Margaret (Karen Kopins) turns to pulp novel hero Jake Speed (Wayne Crawford) for help. Together with his sidekick Desmond (Dennis Christopher), Jake and Margaret travel to a war-torn African country in search of her sister, but are thrust into an event-filled journey that brings Jake face to face with his old rival, the sinister Sid (John Hurt).
Whilst writer-director Lane attempts to create a hero in the vein of Indiana Jones and Romancing The Stone‘s Jack Colton, the execution sadly falls flat. Crawford is unconvincing at depicting Speed as a con-man turned hero, lacking the charisma and the physical prowess of Harrison Ford and Michael Douglas – his exchanges with Margaret in particular come across as lacking in charm due to the lack of chemistry between the two actors.
Kopins herself does her best with what she is given in the role of Margaret, particularly in the early scenes building up to her meeting with Jake. However, the film’s latter half sees the character relegated to being a passive love interest, giving Kopins little to work with as a result. The only actor who provides a stand-out performance is Hurt, who provides white slaver Sid with a sleazy charm and feral energy that makes him an entertaining yet threatening adversary, particularly in his introductory scene where he casually dispatches a servant whilst in the middle of a business transaction.
Despite being marketed as being an action-adventure, the film is strangely lacking in action, with the first hour of the film mostly consisting of exposition-filled dialogue sequences that largely consist of tired cliches, the occasional moment of cheesy charm aside. The action sequences that do appear largely consist of poorly-shot and choreographed shoot-outs and below-par car chases and crashes, with even the inclusion of man-eating lions and Jake’s Bond-esque gadget-laden car failing to excite, due to both elements being handled in an anti-climactic manner.
The only moment where the film appears to come to life is ironically at its climax, which briefly involves Jake and Desmond driving through a burning airfield firing at enemy soldiers. Perhaps if the rest of Jake Speed had had this level of energy, it might have come close to matching the likes of the Indiana Jones series. As it is, it just comes across as a missed opportunity.