As with any genre, there are good action movies, and there are bad action movies. There are even action movies so horribly, tediously bad and strange that they cross a line into unintentional burlesque. But every now and then, an action movie occurs that crosses an invisible line, evolving beyond the usual constraints of its genre to become something entirely unlike an action movie – or like any kind of regular movie at all. Kill Speed, currently available on DVD from Epic Pictures, is such a film, chronicling the harrowing adventures of “7th Heaven’s” Andrew Keegan and the Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter as they scowl into the camera lens, pretending to be ruthless and thuggish international meth runners. Kill Speed also features Robert Patrick as a particularly rough-and-tumble President of the United States, and Tom Arnold in a brief, explosive cameo as violent, desert-sequestered meth cooker, a la “Breaking Bad.”
Keegan plays Strayger, a rakish and devil-may-care young gentleman who employs two of his equally anarchic friends, Foreman (Carter) and Rainman (Brandon Quinn), as part of a makeshift drug-running operation. Doing business with local cartels, Strayger and his associates fly batches of cash and meth back and forth across the Mexican border in private jet planes. Anxious to maintain his autonomy – and as the back cover of the DVD proclaims it, his “lavish lifestyle” – Strayger becomes entangled in a double-pronged struggle for survival and market domination. Skirting pressures from Mexican drug lords to amp up production, while simultaneously dodging looming threats of capture and imprisonment from government watchdogs at the mythical offices of the DIA, Strayger’s life becomes further complicated when he encounters a beautiful and mysterious woman at a house party, whom Strayger’s colleagues suspect may have ulterior motives.
It’s no longer a fresh observation to suggest that the spectrum of distinction between “good” and “bad” in the cinematic universe is fluid and ever-changing, eternally subject to individual distortion, the transient whims of social context, and an infinite array of additional, minute factors, far beyond the precognitive control of the filmmakers themselves. Such is the multifaceted environment of opinion that has birthed cultural phenomena like that surrounding Verhoven’s Showgirls, or nurtured the transcendent infamy of 1990’s straight-to-VHS classic Troll 2, a cheese-drenched horror outing so bizarre and off-kilter that it spawned an entire feature-length documentary about itself called The Best Worst Movie.
Aside from their capacity for unintentional surrealism, and their ability to herald an endless parade of smirking cheap shot callbacks from audiences, films like these occupy a unique territory in the hallowed annals of filmic expression. To paraphrase David Schmader, films like Kill Speed are special because they’re accidents – a great film is meticulously planned and orchestrated by hundreds of people so that it can coalesce into a unified, overarching expression of a single creative vision. A movie like Kill Speed might be conceived originally by a bold auteur (as indeed, like John Rad’s Dangerous Men and Tommy Wisseau’s The Room, it was). However, like Citizen Kane, the movie’s singularity can’t be attributed solely to any single element of its production. It’s the perfect cohesion of all of its missteps that make the film so endlessly worthy of bug-eyed, rubbernecking fascination.
Kill Speed is a flawlessly synthesized, towering edifice of perfect and unintentional irony, manifest relentlessly in a seamless network of bizarre plot twists, jaw-droppingly inexplicable casting decisions, glaringly conspicuous CG, awkward dialogue, trite thematic moralizing, and characterization that eternally modulates, with gripping and balletic delicacy, between threadbare cliché and genre-epitomizing archetype. This is a film in which the President of the United States himself flies a fighter plane in multiple airborne takedown missions of petty drug traffickers, a film where Shawnee Smith shoots up drugs between her toes, eats a bag of meth, and then orally pleasures Tom Arnold. Don’t even get me started on what Nick Carter does onscreen in this movie. It’s impossible to convey the full breadth and horror of the constant, mangled spew of Ebonics phrases issuing from his mouth. His performance truly has to be seen to be believed.
I have never experienced such profound disappointment in my entire career upon realizing a DVD had no special features. Aside from the innate desire to hear Nick Carter and that guy from "7th Heaven" talk about their contributions to this epic masterpiece, I also was really super eager to know what the director/writer/producer had to say for himself. Kill Speed is the brainchild of former television scriptwriter and producer Kim Bass, whose prior canonical works include “Keenan and Kel,” “Sister Sister,” and “In Living Color,” and with his background in light comedy, I’m almost tempted to read Kill Speed as a deliberate stab at high-concept genre parody. Woefully, Bass remains absent from the disc, and Carter and Keegan appear only in a tacked-on blooper reel that plays over the film’s end credits. The mystery of this film’s phantasmagoric ethos must consequently remain, for the current moment, wistfully unpenetrated. Unlike my soul.