Opened: June 13, 1997 | Rated: PG-13
The problem with an action movie pegging all its thrills on an out-of-control cruise ship is that an out-of-control cruise ship can be seen coming literally miles away.
In "Speed 2: Cruise Control," the most un-called for sequel in recent memory, a maniac puts a luxury liner on a collision course with an oil tanker. For ten minutes of screen time, the boat careens toward doom. The crew knows they're going to crash from so far away at first they need binoculars to see the tanker. The passengers know they're going to crash. The tanker crew knows they're going to be hit. But director Jan DeBont ("Speed," "Twister") insists with a blaring soundtrack and snappy editing that this is exciting stuff.
Then, five seconds before impact, a passenger screams "We're going to crash!"
Where have you been, lady?
As hard as DeBont tries, there's just no way to get an adrenaline rush from this material. It's like watching a tortoise collide with a sloth.
The first "Speed" was a unique, creative, self-contained concept. It rose above the action genre because of DeBont's relentless direction and clever casting. Keanu Reeves was perfect for the role of the all action and few words thick-skulled cop. The lame action movie one-liners sounded natural coming from him.
So when Reeves turned down the sequel that should have been the end of it, but box office greed got in the way. In "Speed 2" the lame one-liners just sound lame and the creativity is limited to how many camera angles can be used to show one boat crash.
DeBont put pen to paper and created "Speed 2," in which lead-foot Annie (Sandra Bullock), the bus-driving heroine from "Speed," has a new super-cop boyfriend. Things didn't work out with the Reeves character, and she's settled down with Alex (Jason Patric), under the impression he's just a nice, quiet traffic cop.
Turns out he's really a SWAT team loose cannon, and "Speed 2" wastes no time in trying to win the audience's confidence, opening with Alex in a zinger of a motorcycle chase.
When the chase ends on the same road where Annie has just miserably failed a driving test (administered by Tim Conway), Alex's cover is blown and to make it up to her, he takes her on a cruise.
Before you can say "too good to be true," the ship is hijacked by another generic action movie psycho (Willem Dafoe), a computer programmer who was fired by the cruise company so now he's gone postal, taking over the ship with his laptop computer. Oh, and there are some diamonds on board.
"Speed 2" is all concept and execution. The stunts are average, the computer effects impressive, but the story is a mess. DeBont has so much time to waste while waiting for the ship to hit something that we're subjected to a manifest of annoying peripheral characters and scores of reaction shots from fishing boat captains whose vessels are crushed under the hull after somehow having failed to notice a cruise ship bearing down on them for most of the day.
Meanwhile on board, Alex is running around fighting the maniac and trying to override his program to stop the ship. The passengers, including a Weight Watchers support group and an exploitingly sympathetic little deaf girl, huddle at the bow of the ship despite the fact that it's heading straight for a large, stationary object at 17 knots. The crew is on the bridge narrating the velocity of the ship for us ("Two knots! We're almost stopped!").
The climax of the movie flails around like a dying fish. The ship crashes twice (once into the tanker and once into a dock) while Dafoe escapes with the diamonds. But for some reason he sticks around for a jet ski chase, only to be blown up in some way that's never adequately explained.
I have a feeling that this picture is going to bomb. I don't think the movie-going public is fooled at all by this poor excuse for a sequel. I hope I'm right, because I don't think I could stomach a "Speed 3."