Speed 2: Cruise Control

7 knots! 6 knots! 5 knots! 4 knots! 3 knots!
☆☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1997
Director: 
Jan De Bont
Starring: 
Sandra Bullock, Jason Patric, Willem Dafoe
The Setup: 
Sandra Bullock and new beau find adventure on a hijacked cruise ship.
Discussion: 

Why do I torture myself? That’s what a movie like this makes me ask. I saw this in the theater when it was out, and seeing it again really didn’t add anything to my sense of exactly how awful it is and why. It just makes me question why I decided to embark on this project [this website] that takes up a lot of my time, which is a bummer when you’re spending that time with a movie that’s a total waste of time.

So the deal is that Speed, one of the better action movies of recent decades, made stars of Sandra Bullock and director Jan De Bont. Then De Bont went on to make the atrocious Twister, and came back for this. Reeves wisely opted out, as his career didn’t require him to put himself through this, but poor Sandra owed her big launch to fame to the first film, and felt she owed it to De Bont to be in this one.

We open with these somewhat overblown credits, and already it’s obvious that the filmmakers believe that what everyone loved about the first was its “thrill ride” aspect [rather than the fact that it had a good script and sensible characters], and that’s what this one is all about: the THRILLS! So replacement boyfriend Jason Patric as Alex is chasing some truck on a motorcycle. Meanwhile Sandra as Annie is taking, and failing, a driving test with Tim Conway. I believe this is supposed to be funny, in reference to the first film, but of course in a world that made any kind of sense, she would have become a much more careful driver after her experience. Alex’s chase ends right where Annie’s driving test does, and we have some cocked-up relationship turmoil as she’s mad at him for saying he was on the safe beach patrol when actually he’s this daredevil. Then he surprises her with tickets to a Caribbean cruise, which he had on hand while in the midst of his high-speed motorcycle chase.

Already we can tell that nothing about these characters bears any resemblance to anything going on in reality, they’re just plot points given voice, which makes for an incredibly dull movie.

So they get on the cruise and are shown to their room. Sandra engages in this kind of incessant babble that was apparently test-marketed to be “adorable,” blurting out everything that comes into her mind in a childlike “I’m just the cutest five-year-old EVER!” voice, things like “Oh my God! I can’t believe I’m on a cruise! I’m just so excited right now! So whaddya think? Will it be shuffleboard on the lido deck, or pink drinks with those little umbrellas in them?” How about a heaping helping of shut the fuck up? As an aside, I was working at a record store near the campus of the University of Michigan [which attracted a lot of East Coast people who, as my friend said, “couldn’t get into the Ivy League college of their choice”] during the eighties, and during this time I witnessed how these movie and TV characters begin to be emulated by the public in their desperate quest to be adorable. It was a few years after Demi Moore reached the highlight of her popularity, and all of a sudden there were all these glib young women with husky voices. When Julia Roberts came around, this sort of endless “adorable” banter began to be emulated, with everyone tossing their hair and just talking nonstop about how they can’t believe this or that is so amazing or crinkling their nose and asking if you know what they mean. This didn’t receive much modification when Sandra came along, but just became more cemented into the panoply of personas that people who adopt pre-approved personas might choose from.

But aside from spending time with babbling idiot Annie, the rest of the cruise looks like an absolute nightmare anyway. You know that unique hell of being stuck, not only with frighteningly upbeat people, but in a whole corporate atmosphere that is based on a perceived wish to paaaaaaarrrr-TAY?!? Here there's this loud Caribbean band playing this awful music and everyone is dancing and whooping—the thought of being trapped on board a ship with that is too horrifying to imagine. Anyway, Annie and Alex come into contact with Willem Dafoe as Geiger early on in their voyage, and Alex's eagle eye for criminal behavior points him out right away, although he is clearly being lenient on Annie's criminally inane purple-tinted sunglasses. Now, and throughout the first half of the movie, we have to endure numerous scenes in which Alex is about to propose, but decides at the last moment to wait. So when they go out that night and see UB40 performing, then the "Diamond Jewelry Collection" is paraded around for them to buy [what, is this cruise sponsored by QVC?], then another singer comes on [and becomes part of the survivors later], and the credits reveal that this singer is TAMIA! Who brought you "Stranger in My House" and the delightful "Officially Missing You." Anyway, after the cruise tries to intimidate people into buying jewelry, Alex starts making some idiot banter to Annie as a roundabout way of proposing [I really should have written it down, but it's something like "Can I get turndown service—for life?"], and they have this horribly "cute" dialogue where she finally says "Oh, I thought you were serious for a second," and he suddenly says he's sick [emotionally sick!] and has to go back to the room.

So after some more hugger-mugger with Geiger [he applies live leeches to his body and has explosive golf clubs], we see Annie holding the sleeping Alex in bed while she watches Kubrick's Lolita on TV, the scene where James Mason is telling Lolita how he likes taking care of her. Okay, so putting aside the fact that Annie, as her character is conceived in this movie, no way has the active synapses it would take to sit through Lolita, uh, is this not a rather PROBLEMATIC title to choose to express one character's wish to take care of another? And you think "No, no, they couldn't POSSIBLY mean that," but the next morning Annie says she liked the fact that Alex got sick, because she enjoyed taking care of him. Can you believe this? What the fuck is going on here? Then Annie complains that she doesn't even know his "cop number" and he says "badge number?" and she says "Yeah, see, badge number, I mean, I don't even know that," as though somehow her total ignorance is HIS fault. Then she decides that they need to buy some expensive clothes from the overpriced onboard boutiques. This is AMID all the product placements that have been going on—really, this movie should come with a coupon book.

So Alex shows up at her door for dinner in his new tuxedo—but with his Converse sneakers, because he forgot his dress shoes! Can you BELIEVE it? The whole movie is written at this level, and it is SO off-putting. I love the whole concept that Alex just dropped over a thousand dollars on an expensive tuxedo and yet can't just splash for new shoes. But then it wouldn't be uber-generic adorable! So they go upstairs and are dancing when they hear explosions, and shit starts blowing up. Annie reacts by going "NO! No, no, no, no, no, no! Keep dancing!" …you see, as though if they just keep dancing everything will just go away. After a further explosion, Annie says "Oh MAN, this is my VACATION!" I think this is supposed to be funny [as it is featured in both trailers], but it expresses how the dialogue here is wayyy too over-cute and bears no relation to anything any human being might ever say. Have you ever been with someone [let alone on a DATE with someone] and they start talking shit that they obviously heard out of some movie or TV show [or God forbid, commercial], but they're seriously saying it like they think it's making them come off as really cool, and you literally stare at them like they have an alien growing out of their forehead because you cannot CONCIEVE of why they would be saying this shit to you? Like, as if you can't see through it? And you feel like "Uh, WHOM, exactly, are you addressing? Because it obviously isn't ME." THIS ENTIRE MOVIE IS MADE UP OF MOMENTS LIKE THAT.

I'm not going to include any spoiler warnings because it is not possible that this movie can be spoiled. The deal is that Geiger developed all of the computer systems for the cruise line [which is how he is able to take over the ship so easily], but then he developed this rare blood disease and the company fired him! So he's a disgruntled employee. He tosses the captain overboard and sets off a bunch of fires, forcing the second-in-command to evacuate the ship. Blah, blah, blah, they do [in under 15 minutes!], except Sandra and Alex's boat, which leaves a nice, manageable smattering of passengers on hand. I should also mention that on hand, as Liza the cruise director, is Lucy from Twin Peaks.

Anyway, so Alex springs into action, as he, being LAPD, knows fifty times more than anyone else on board. He instantly deduces that the fires burning below are not real, and bursts onto the bridge to find some transmitter or whatnot. Also on the bridge is the world's most irritating Scottish actor, who will earn his special place in infamy in the final minutes of the movie.

Around now is where I stopped taking careful notes, because it’s just generic action sequence after generic action sequence. Of course Patric is the smartest guy on board, and always knows what Geiger is up to or how to counter his next move. The horrible eternal-meet-cute dialogue continues as Alex is about to go into the drink to stop the propeller or some shit, and he suddenly spouts out a number. Of course—it’s his badge number, as everyone knows, but we have to sit through it as Annie goes “What’s that?” etc. We see that Geiger is controlling the entire ship through his handy wrist-mounted computer! Anyway, at the end Geiger takes Annie off in a speedboat as a hostage, having sent the cruise liner speeding straight for a tanker.

This part is inadvertently somewhat cool. Brave Alex somehow makes it so they can turn the ship, and they end up only sideswiping the tanker, which was kind of cool. I can’t say with accuracy whether there are REALLY huge oil tankers parked just off resort islands in the Caribbean, but who knows, maybe there are. Anyway, now the ship is heading straight for the island. They start hitting little boats parked offshore, clearly killing several people, although this is not shown. But the boats slow down the liner, and leads to a series of what may be the most irritating, inane shots in modern cinema. We keep cutting to the world’s most annoying Scottish cruise guy as he announces every single tiny drop in speed. Within the space of about three minutes, he shouts: “9 knots! 7 knots! 6 knots! 5 knots! 4 knots! 2 knots!” and finally, in an amazed voice: “Zero!” and, just for good measure, a few seconds later he once again looks at the monitor and says, in an amazed voice: “Zero!” It’s as if they forgot that they already edited one of those takes in. Perhaps De Bont thinks this is funny? We’ll never know.

Anyway, so for a big finish, the cruise ship smashes through the resort town, destroying many of the fake buildings. Several times you can see the interior of the building and the inside is just unfinished lumber. Apparently De Bont blew a full third of the film’s budget on this stunt, and it’s just not really all that great, nor is it something we’ve never seen before. It just kind of happens.

Still, the movie is not over! I had completely forgotten about Annie and Geiger by that point, but remember, they’re still out in that speedboat and movie conventions dictate that Geiger must be brought to justice. I’d have been perfectly happy had they just let the movie end, but…. So Alex commandeers the boat of the guy who Keanu Reeves commandeered the car of in the first movie—isn’t that hilarious? No? Well, you’re right. After a long chase, Alex saves Annie and Geiger blows up. I can’t even go into it. Geiger lost this white bag that was filled with the ship’s jewels [remember the Diamond Jewelry Collection?] and the black guy picks up the bag, saying “Look what I found in international waters.” Aside from the inherent racism in this, how exactly would he know WHAT was in that bag? Not to mention—how is he going to get it through customs?

It was SO AWFUL. There was really not one redeeming thing about it. I kind of thought that maybe it would be fun or wasn’t as bad as I thought, but no, it’s just truly terrible. The biggest problem is that cruise ships just don’t really go all that fast, and even if they do, they barely SEEM like they’re moving at all. So you have this movie called Speed and yet it the whole speed element is a dead issue from before the movie even begins. The best way to look at this is as a disaster film in the tradition of Airport ’77, but having it be part of the Speed series kind of kills that.

All of this puts one in mind of what worked so well about the first one: namely, the script. The main plot driver of the original was ingeniously simple, and the writer found lots of interesting ways to spin it out. Plus, his characters had distinctive characteristics, which allowed Reeves and Bullock to demonstrate their winning chemistry.

Which brings us to the Bullock issue. In the first movie, she was charming and fairly capable. It was HILARIOUS when she would scrape a ton of cars and say “Sorry!” in her nasal little voice. When I went into this movie I expected that she would step more to the center and be active in the saving of the people, but no, she is a totally helpless, screaming bystander. There is one moment when she whips out a chainsaw and actually DOES SOMETHING, but even that is followed with a “joke” about how she’s too dumb to know she’s holding a whirling chainsaw blade in someone’s face. Apparently her character was just a screaming screwball ditz to De Bont, and that’s what he kept of her for the sequel. People coming to see this sequel are probably coming to see HER [though the trailer would have us believe De Bont thinks they’re coming to see HIM], and she’s just so poorly served by this script. Poor Sandra.

Well, that’s about it. Please don’t allow yourself to suffer the same fate I did. If you liked Speed and want more Speed you should probably just watch Speed again.

Should you watch it: 

No, really, really, NO.