An Important Discussion About John Travolta’s Speedboat Movie, ‘Speed Kills’

Editor-at-Large
11.16.18 6 Comments

Saban Films

There are two things you need to know about Speed Kills.

The first thing is that Speed Kills is a movie that stars John Travolta as a speedboat mogul who runs drugs for the mafia. It’s important to start there because it is a true statement and also an incredible one. Did you ever think you’d see the day when someone made a speedboat drug movie that stars John Travolta? I did not. To be fair, I didn’t even realize it was something that was on the table. But that’s the thing about movies and art, in general. They expand the range of what’s possible. They make dreams real. And sometimes, well, those dreams are about John Travolta in a speedboat.

This brings us to the second thing you need to know: Speed Kills is not good. I imagine you figured that out already, though, considering it’s a speedboat movie that stars John Travolta — fresh off of Gotti and with Fred Durst’s directorial debut on the way — and went straight to VOD and was at one point released in 10-minute chunks in a format specifically designed for VR headsets. I am not joking about this last part. I am extremely not joking about it. Look at the website. Each segment has its own title, like “Drug Running” and “Fast Money” and “Breaking Hearts.” It’s all very on-the-nose and just flabbergasting on a number of levels and this is the actual poster for the movie.

Saban Films

It has everything: Helicopters, speedboats, explosions, more helicopters, Travolta holding a gun and looking straight into my eyes with a facial expression that screams “Well, I guess I’m in a speedboat movie now.” Yes, I watched Speed Kills. It was somehow both more and less than what I expected. I’m sure you have questions about all of this. Please, fire away.

What is any of this?

Great place to start. Travolta plays a guy named Ben Aronoff who is loosely based on a real guy named Don Aronow. The movie opens with him on a pay phone in New Jersey in 1962. He’s a real estate guy and things got weird and it’s not important at all because it’s only there to get us to Miami. Actually, wait. I lied. The movie opens with Tom Sizemore walking into John Travolta’s speedboat store to threaten him and then zips back in time to the Jersey thing to explain how we got there.

Tom Sizemore is in this movie?

Kind of! He’s only in that one scene but it bookends the movie. Like, he really walks in at the beginning of the movie to intimidate Travolta with hammy warnings and then we never see his character again until the very end, where he repeats the exact same hammy threats. This fact alone explains the movie better than any of the words I’m about to type.

Here’s the best part, though: In this scene and the flashback that immediately follows it, which, again, takes place 25 years earlier, John Travolta looks exactly the same. The only attempt to age him up or down in the whole thing involves changing hairpieces. I love it so much.

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