Monday, October 15, 2012

Lose Control: "Speed 2: Cruise Control" (1997)

Sandra Bullock returns as Annie in this terrible, ill-conceived sequel that has great action and awful dialogue.

Annie and her new beauhunk, Alex (Jason Patric), go vacationing on a cruise to the Caribbean. Where is Keanu Reeves? He wisely skipped this sequel, perhaps sensing it was doomed to fail. Alex is a cop, and Annie is nervous about pursuing a relationship with him. The cruise is a way to relax the both of them, spending some down time together, and maybe they will discover more about each other, and themselves, and find a deep ageless love that transcends the gods and makes all of us believe that there is a soulmate out there for each of us and we just have to find them...and then nutty Geiger (Willem Dafoe) takes over the ship.

Geiger was recently fired from the cruise company because he is ill from spending too much time doing their computer systems. As luck would have it, there is a traveling jewelry showcase onboard, so Geiger decides to rob the ship, and send it careening all over the seas in the process.

Annie and Alex do a lot of arguing and making up in between Geiger's terrorist acts. They help screaming nameless passengers and crew members (is that Lois Chiles? is that Colleen Camp? is that Bo Svenson? is that UB40?), but Geiger is always, everyone now, "one step ahead of them." The final half hour, as the ship heads toward an oil tanker and certain doom, are exciting, but they do not make up for the rest of the film.

Even during filming, I remember seeing set interviews where Bullock was swearing off a "Speed 3." Now we know why. Alex is blessed with the same superhuman powers Bruce Willis was blessed with in "Die Hard 2." Alex can figure out who Geiger is just from the most scant of clues. Alex can diffuse grenades. Alex can slow whole ships down with the grandest of ideas. Alex can save a little deaf girl Drew (Christine Firkins) from certain drowning. Alex can defy all laws, marine and physic, in order to get back to his gal Annie. Alex even gets a catch phrase, in case this had proved successful- "I'll be right back."

The original "Speed" screenwriter, Graham Yost, had nothing to do with this film, and it shows. Geiger is a creepy villain, leeching himself to stay alive, but he often does stupid things just to mess up and let Alex or Annie triumph. All the cast members have "funny" one liners to mutter during the intense proceedings, reminding us that this is all in good fun. However, this also removes all the tension, as in the case where Annie is shooting flares into the air while Geiger comments on her "fiery temper;" that line alone made me want to shut the film off. The first film had tension, but here director and co-story writer de Bont decided to turn this into a half-hearted smirk fest.

There are some brilliant action pieces. The sight of the giant ship headed to the oil tanker, then a crowded pier, are wonderful. Don't worry, that's no spoiler, the film's trailer gave it away when it was released in 1997. But, there are also some action pieces that should have been lost entirely. The lifeboat rescue, and Drew's elevator ordeal, are both too long and go nowhere in the grand scheme of Geiger's. Toss in some hot and cold computer effects as well.

In the end, "Speed 2: Cruise Control" cannot take advantage of its built-in audience and deliver another tight actioner like the first film. It takes the audience for granted, and proves the character of Annie cannot carry an entire film. This film cruises into oblivion, cable television reruns, and sinks. (*) out of five stars.