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Reactions to the 2018 Movie “Speed Kills” starring John Travolta

Is VR – Virtual Reality – where Hollywood is headed, replacing all things physical with green screens?

“Speed Kills” is based on the amazing story of offshore powerboat building and racing from the 1960s through the 1980s, fast living swingers, and drug-running gangsters, all centered around the life and death of legendary boat designer and racer Don Aronow, the Miami Cigarette Boat King.

The movie is directed by Jodi Scurfield, with story writers John Luessenhop and David Aaron Cohen. If you haven’t seen the movie, I’ve put links to it below:

The official “Speed Kills” trailer:

This trailer sums up the entire movie in less than 2.5 minutes:

The story itself is surely “one for the books,”
as it’s about a man that definitely influenced and more or less built, led and dominated the powerboating industry for twenty years.
From building multiple brands, to buying and selling his own companies multiple times, Don Aronow was a mastermind businessman who made it big in the construction industry up north and came to Miami to get rid of the bad weather, the construction business and, of course, his alleged ties to the mob.

“Speed Kills” was a long-time-awaited movie the powerboating community was screaming to see.
Why it took years of hype to finally get this movie released after its production is almost a larger mystery than that of who really killed Don Aronow in 1987.

The Book Speed Kills:
This film does play directly from the 2013 book written by Jay Harris (here on Amazon) and if you’ve read the book you probably agree with me that as exciting as it was, the book was a bit over-done with massive amounts of details on each and every person, drowning the story’s momentum. However, in defense of the author, it is a very well-written and detailed book and a must read if you’re into the industry itself or the life and death of Don Aronow.

Speed Kills written by Jay Harris   


Here is similar DVD on Amazon about Don Aronow’s Life called “Thunder Man: The Don Aronow Story” directed by Andrew Wainrib.
I haven’t watched this. If you have seen this please leave a comment about it below.


The Movie “Speed Kills”:
As I saw from the opening scenes it was 95% right from the book (shockingly, even word-for-word) as in the very first scene as the hit man’s partner’s line of “I’d do anything for my boss,” so I was excited as the movie took off, but as most felt when this movie was over, this excitement was unfortunately just as short-lived as the man it was written around, leaving so many instances, facts, experiences, and photos left out. It was disturbing.

I felt the casting of “Speed Kills” was excellent. It featured a huge A-list of celebrities covering the many roles needed for this film, such as the legendary John Travolta playing Don Aronow himself, Tom Seizmore (who rocked in movies like “Heat” and “Saving Private Ryan”), Jordi Molla (whom we all know from any major drug dealer role in movies such as “Blow”, “Bad Boys 2”), and so many others.

Images: complements of Search Results:

In the presence of kings, vice presidents, drug deals, murders, the DEA. Don Aronow was surely a lady’s man driven by winning and did so at any cost; a man who pushed boat building, engine manufacturing, production and sales methods of the marine industry beyond bounds. A man who many would say was as authentic as he was handsome, while others knowing the business side of Mr. Aronow would contradict those statements, saying he was a great guy until you either raced him or did business with him as he’d go to all lengths to win at either and was very good at doing both.

Those in the powerboating world who saw this movie didn’t hold back their opinions, blasting it on social media, boating forums and almost anywhere they could be heard as it did fail to impress on so many levels.

I personally thought the movie struggled to pull together real clips from the past of actual races (that we were all itching to see) while telling a storyline that even today has more angles than most realize, while toggling back-and-forth from too brightly lit, over-colored scenes that screamed “staged!” Travolta definitely excelled with his great resemblance to Don Aronow; at the same time, however, the movie’s footage clips were so poorly assembled it was almost uncomfortable to watch at times. If you were really watching the movie you might have also spotted a newer Blue Corvette that had no business being in the reenacted scenes, as well as the Blue Thunder boat that Don and Geroge (the Vice President) was looking at, was not only red vs. “Blue” but it had an LED light bar across the front. Last time i checked LED’s weren’t around in that timeframe.

Rating sites like IMDB & Rotten Tomatoes have given this movie barely 3 of out of 10 stars and it has gotten a very bad rap from many critics. If you feel differently, please comment below.

A Movie Made to Sell Tickets was the word on the street as the producers seemed to be more excited about using newer technology “VR” than they were about telling the story of a legend in the offshore powerboat building and racing industry.

Is this where Hollywood is headed, with Virtual Reality Sets and green screens replacing a real set? It seems the producers were so excited about how they showed this newer type Virtual Reality Movie they forgot who they were making this film first for Boat Owners and followers of the Offshore Powerboating community and second to those who love John Travolta. One would think of all money that was saved on not having to shoot much of this on a real set that they’d have a longer and better-explained story to tell.

With an article from showing a few clips of this new “VR” technology, we see just how excited the producers really were about this film’s creation.

“This will set the bar for celebrity-driven cinematic virtual reality,” said VR director Travis Cloyd. “Our goal is not only to drive an audience to go see the feature film, but also give them a unique experience as if they were side-by-side with these icons.

How often can you stand next to a legend going 60 mph in a speedboat?
Thanks to VR, this is finally a possibility, and we are excited to be crafting compelling, action-packed content for this medium.”

The TopDogVR production company financed and produced Speed Kills VR Experience. Producers include Richard Del Castro, Guy Griffithe, and Travis Cloyd.

A Virtual Reality Scene that does resemble Michal Mann’s scenes in the movie Miami Vice:


The Virtual Reality sections of this movie were collaborated/produced by TopDogVR and have
claimed that they are the longest film clips to date using this type of VR technology.


Could the movie have had a better turn out from a Michael Mann production?

Well, Mr. Mann also was blasted for the production of the Movie Miami Vice starring Jamie Fox and Collen Farrell, but I’m willing to bet if the budget had been there – we would have seen a much different approach and end product as I myself sat in the theater watching Miami Vice thinking “What the hell was Mann thinking?” But it was only later while watching it a few more times “I got” what he was doing and to this day do think that the movie Miami Vice was very well produced.

We all know Mr. Mann does make a great movie; there just might not have been the time, money, or interest for him to do his normal over-boarding, as he’s notorious for going that extra mile with some things like forcing his actors to spend literally months “getting into character” or having a taxi cab painted 20+ times for that “perfect” paint job while prepping it for some “Collateral” damage. But who knows, because he didn’t produce it.
Any thoughts – please leave them below.

In summary, the movie was a reminder of the life and death of quite possibly the most influential boat builder to ever live. So, whether the story or the industry is new to you, I still think the movie warrants the $8 you’re going to spend to watch it on DirectTV, so go for it.
Thanks for the read.

Post written by: Dave Saitta
Longtime Powerboating Enthusiast
Writer for
Part-time Amazon affiliate from using links (as the link above) for the Book Speed Kills by Jay Harris.

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