Speedo(New Video, 10.26.2004)
Let me begin this review by stating that Speedo is not just for fans of the great American pastime that is demolition derby. In fact, it's more about love, familial responsibility, and the great American dream than car smashing. But don't worry sports fans, the film's got plenty of auto carnage to boot. The emotional depth just makes it all the more exciting for us non-derbygoers.
The film is about Ed "Speedo" Jager, one of our nation's leading "demo" drivers. Speedo spends his 9 to 5 working as a mechanic at a Long Island garage. Before each week's event, he spends the majority of his free (and working) time re-building his wrecked cars, piece-by-broken-piece. He's also quite the artist, as his vehicle's slick artwork surely confirms.
Speedo does a really good job promoting himself. With the help of his eldest son, Anthony (a.k.a. Speedo Jr.), and his new main squeeze, Speedo reaches for new heights as a performer, man, and father.
Initially, Speedo comes across as a pretty big jerk. However, as the film progresses, we discover that he's a first-rate father and all around decent guy. It's amazing how wrong an initial reaction to a real life character can be. He may be a daredevil redneck but he's also a daredevil redneck with a whole lotta love to give...and he's a real man of passion.
As Speedo's marriage and home life begins to deteriorate, his derby rage accelerates and he becomes a lean-mean car wreckin' machine. The road rage actually helps him win his competitions but, as we can clearly see, he's not in the best of spirits. This changes when he begins to date a female track official and things get serious between the two lovebirds. Here, we get a genuine glimpse of a man's transformation, his acceptance of reality, and his ultimate inner peace.
Also of note, Speedo has a really great relationship with Speedo Jr. and it's emotionally captivating to see the two of them together, respecting each other's lifestyles (lil Speedo is a punk rocker who likes to duct tape his chest and dye his hair pink when he performs onstage -- that kinda says it all). Speedo goes to his son's shows and fully supports his hobby to rock-out.
Director Jesse Moss does an exceptional job of capturing Speedo's ups and downs, in and out of the derby, during the span of one year. The film is formally accomplished, albeit a smidgen short, but the pacing is perfect and the content engrossing.
Docurama presents the film in its original full-frame transfer. The image quality, for the most part, is perfectly acceptable considering how the film was made. Night scenes look at little grainy but that's totally expected. What matters is that the night-time demolition scenes come across nice and clear and they certainly do. Audio comes in Dolby Digital 2.0 and is also fine, with consistently clear dialogue and some good ol' rip-roaring engines.
In terms of extras, we get some really nice goodies. First up is the feature length commentary track with Speedo and Jesse Moss. After already hearing Speedo pretty much narrate the film, one would expect this commentary to be overkill, also considering that Moss basically asks the questions and Speedo gives the answers. Luckily, the commentary's a real hoot. Speedo is completely entertaining and informative. The track is lively and there's hardly any silence.
Moving along, we get 3 deleted scenes, totaling around 10 minutes. All 3 are great, especially the school bus derby sequence and Speedo Jr.'s first demo race. It would have been great if the film had included Speedo Jr.'s little side-story but I guess that would have been a little off-track, so to speak. No worries, the 3 scenes actually work great as post-film viewing and the Jr. sequence is a nice updater.
Lastly, we have a photo gallery containing pictures of Speedo as an infant, teen, young man, and present-day man. I'm normally not a huge fan of flipping through a bunch of promotional photos on my television but these were really substantial and depth-enhancing. I guess since it's a documentary, the photos make it all the more real and also make Speedo seem more relatable (although, by the end of the film, he already seems completely relatable, even rather insightful).
If you're in the mood for a little car wreckage, some domestic drama, an intriguing subject, and a whole lotta heart... be sure to check out Speedo. -- Neil Karassik