From the director of CRUEL INTENTIONS 3 and ROAD HOUSE 2 comes EXIT SPEED, a non-sequel that plays like a hybrid of JOY RIDE and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. Scott Ziehl’s high-concept, low-budget thriller may have gotten into a few theaters, but its small scale and relatively unknown cast fit better on your home screen.
A soccer mom (CAROLINE IN THE CITY’s Lea Thompson), an Iraq war deserter (Julie Mond), an abusive high school football coach (Gregory Jbarra), a Mexican handyman (Everett Sifuentes), a vegan videogamer (Alice Greczyn), and a deadbeat dad (WRONG TURN’s Desmond Harrington) are among a handful of strangers riding a bus across Texas on Christmas Eve. A crackhead outlaw biker gang attacks the bus and forces it into an abandoned wrecking yard, where the strangers have to work together to defend themselves. Scene-stealing Fred Ward (THE RIGHT STUFF) puts in a few days work as a military detective on Mond’s tail.
Writer Michael Stokes does an okay job creating characters for everyone to play, and Ziehl guides his cast through some suspenseful moments. The characters are types, for sure, though that’s de rigueur for the genre, but they’re at least fairly interesting types. You find yourself rooting for even the less sympathetic types, due to each performer’s care, and when one is picked off by the baddies, it hurts. Lea Thompson going all LORD OF THE FLIES with a machete on some biker is pretty effective stuff, and Ziehl knows how to deliver the gore when it counts.
Unfortunately, Stokes and Ziehl spent much less effort building up the bad guys. They seem inspired by the crazies who menaced Mel Gibson in THE ROAD WARRIOR, but are little more than cartoon villains without even names. Giving the antagonists more personality might have put this little picture over the top. EXIT SPEED is no DTV classic, but it’s worth a rental.