A Quiet Getaway Turns Into Romance and Wreckage
The Seabourn Legend has everything a movie cruise ship needs, including five passenger decks, swimming pool, health club, beauty salon, plus a mad terrorist to call its very own.
It’s completely appropriate that “Speed 2: Cruise Control” centers on the hijacking of the Legend, because this movie is a form of creative abduction. Director Jan De Bont has lifted both the title and star Sandra Bullock from the original “Speed” and placed them in a movie that otherwise has little connection to the earlier hit.
A film that wouldn’t have been considered, let alone made, if De Bont hadn’t been so successful the first time around, “Speed 2" suffers from its derivative origins. Though it displays enough perils to put a dent in future cruise ship sales, the film has a makeshift, slapdash quality that is the opposite of its predecessor.
That film, De Bont’s directing debut, took the quirky idea of a booby-trapped Santa Monica bus that would explode if it slowed below a certain speed and turned it into an expert piece of commercial filmmaking, one of the most deserved action hits of 1994.
Though co-star Keanu Reeves considered this new trip unnecessary, the “Speed 2" crew has packed in lots of references from the original. These include cameos for returning actors, a stunt in an elevator and the repeated use of the film’s “relationships based on extreme circumstances never work out” tagline.
As noted, Bullock’s Annie Porter is back, with a new boyfriend she thinks has a low-stress job as a beach cop in Venice. But, as Annie finds out in the film’s opening sequence, Alex Shaw (Jason Patric) is another daredevil SWAT team operative who practically needs leg irons to keep him from risking his life.
That sequence, with Shaw on a motorcycle chasing a truck and dodging large cartons on a winding mountain road, is in many ways the film’s best. De Bont’s fine kinetic sense, his expertise at pacing action, is on more display in this warmup than in the film’s more expensive and cumbersome climactic stunts.
To make up for misleading Annie about his job, Alex asks her to join him on a Caribbean cruise. A week of quality relaxation time together, he says, and we’ll really get to know each other better. As if.
Since anyone who cares knows that the cruise’s tranquillity isn’t fated to last, one of the film’s flaws is that it’s too slow getting into the bulk of the action. Though tyro screenwriters Randall McCormick and Jeff Nathanson have no gift for character or chitchat, “Speed 2" spends so much time with its forgettable characters that it begins to resemble a wide-screen episode of “Love Boat.”
The film does have that terrorist, passenger John Geiger (Willem Dafoe), ill enough to show up with his own jar of leeches, and he finally shows his cards. A disgruntled former employee of the cruise line who now thirsts for revenge, Geiger is intent on widening his eyes, laughing maniacally and destroying the Seabourn Legend, not necessarily in that order.
Only one man has the expertise and the nerve to stop him, and it’s not the overweight representative of Fatbusters. As the confident and capable Shaw, Patric, one of the most interesting of today’s young actors, gives the film’s best performance. Tense and intense, unwilling to raise his voice above a whisper, he has charisma as well as the physicality to make his action sequences convincing.
Regrettably, the jeopardy situations “Speed 2" dreams up are overly familiar and not compelling. While “Speed” had a kind of originality, the sequel is the kind of “ship at risk” epic that has been done often before, perhaps most memorably in Richard Lester’s little-seen “Juggernaut” from 1974. Even the film’s big-ticket closing stunts are more impressive for their size than for any excitement they generate.
“Speed 2" is inescapably a movie where most people, including a largely unchallenged Bullock, are doing no more than going through the paces. When her stressed-out character says, “I swear I’m never leaving the house again,” it’s to be hoped that future “Speed” sequels are what she’s ruling out.
* MPAA rating: PG-13 for frenetic disaster action and violence. Times guidelines: A young teenage girl is placed in jeopardy.
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‘Speed 2: Cruise Control’
Sandra Bullock: Annie Porter
Jason Patric: Alex Shaw
Willem Dafoe: John Geiger
Temuera Morrison: Juliano
Glenn Plummer: Maurice
A Blue Tulip production, released by 20th Century Fox. Director Jan De Bont. Producers Steve Perry, Michael Peyser. Executive producer Mark Gordon. Screenplay Randall McCormick and Jeff Nathanson. Cinematographer Jack N. Green. Editor Alan Cody. Costumes Louise Frogley. Music Mark Mancina. Production designs Joseph Nemec II, Bill Kenney. Art director Bill Skinner. Set decorator Cindy Carr. Running time: 2 hours, 1 minute.
* In general release throughout Southern California.