Relationships that start under intense circumstances never last.
"Speed 2: Cruise Control" takes a long time to shift out of first.
Audiences fell in love with "Speed" in the summer of 1994, an actioner built around the premise of keeping a bus in rush hour over fifty miles per hour. They were charmed by its a-new-crisis-every-ten-minutes narrative structure and the chemistry between leads Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. Now, director Jan De Bont, hot off the success of "Twister", has returned to the franchise that started his stateside directorial career, with a sequel that he hopes will prolong the relationship that was cultivated back in 1994.
I'm sorry Mr. Kenter, but that bus was going way too fast.
S2CC opens up with Annie Potter (Sandra Bullock) taking a driving test under the watchful eye of DMV employee Mr. Kenter (Tim Conway). Of course, three years after the bus incident, she still can't drive properly, and causes numerous accidents and near-misses during the test. Meanwhile, her new beau, Alex Shaw (Jason Patric) is on a motorcycle chasing a truck loaded with stolen computer equipment. Circumstances have Annie running into Alex after he bags the bad guy, and she learns, after being with him for over two years, that he is not a beach patrol officer, but in fact a daredevil SWAT team member, just like her previous boyfriend (what, she never called him at work? checked his paystubs?). To recover the situation, Alex pulls out two tickets to a Caribbean cruise, where he plans to propose to her.
This is just not fair. You can't just pull out tickets to some exotic locale and expect everything to be alright.
While boarding the cruise ship, Alex and Annie (don't get me started) rub shoulders with fellow passenger John Geiger (Willem Dafoe), whom Alex overhears complaining about his golf clubs being lost. Alex is suspicious of John, because later on when they see him at the poolside bar, a golf tournament is playing on the television behind the bar, and John shows no interest in it, despite bemoaning the loss of his clubs only hours earlier (syeah, right). Of course, it turns out that John is a disgruntled computer programmer that developed controller software for the cruise line and was promptly fired after developing copper poisoning (huh?). John has brought aboard computer equipment, detonation devices hidden in the golf clubs, and explosives disguised as golf balls. As the two lovebirds agonize over the state of their relationship, John sneaks around the ship and makes preparations for his diabolical scheme.
Just as Alex is about to pop the question, an explosion rips through one of the engine rooms and the crew discover that they no longer have control of the ship. John has locked in a collision course for the island of St. Martins, and it is up to Alex and Annie, with the help of the first officer Juliano (Temeura Morrison) and the ship's navigator (Brian McCardie) to save the day.
The slow pacing for the first half of the movie betrays any expectations set by the first movie. Instead of the non-stop heart-pounding thrill machine of 1994, we leisurely follow Alex and Annie talking out their problems and chatting it up with the slice-o'-life characters on the ship. Even when John takes over the ship, the sense of urgency is not apparent. In "Speed", the bus was constantly moving, ducking in and out of traffic, and danger was always less than a few seconds away. In S2CC, the ship is out in the middle of the ocean, and so there is no immediate danger, diminishing the amount of suspense that can be created in such a situation. Granted, the pace picks up in the final third of the movie, with a new crisis every ten minutes as the ship is about to plow into an oil tanker and run aground into the port of St. Martin.
The script is also a reflection on the derivative pedestrian plotting, with even more unbelievable plot contrivances than the original "Speed" (remember the bus sailing over the gap in the road or the police 'forgetting' to check the freight elevators?). For example, Annie searches for something to open a fire door and finds a chainsaw in a utility closet (what is this, "Pulp Fiction"?). And as John is dodging Alex through the corridors of the ship, he rigs up a grenade to a door (remember that John had to disguise his explosives as golf paraphernalia-- so how did he get a big grenade onto the ship?). The uninspiring dialogue is another weak point: snappy one-liners are far and few between, and many lame attempts at humor ending up dying on the screen.
LAPD?! I'm in the Caribbean! What are you doing here?
Still, it has its moments. The scenes of wholesale destruction as the cruise ship plows into the oil tanker and then the port save this mediocre effort. The Jaguar owner that had his car commandeered by Jack Traven in the first movie shows up again, only this time his motor boat is commandeered by Alex. Actress Kimmy Robertson does her airhead 'Lucy Moran' shtick (from "Twin Peaks") as Liza, the cruise director. And Sandra Bullock still has the charm and the spunk to breathe some life into her role as the reluctant heroine, even though she is given less to do this time around (which is more than I can say about Jason Patric, who is absolutely dull when compared to the energy that Reeves brought to the Jack Traven role).
If you were hoping for an edge-of-your-seat experience, you will be bored by "Speed 2: Cruise Control", sitting around waiting for something to happen. This is one of those movies that you can probably wait for the video and it will probably not lose that much in the transition.