By Stephanie Zacharek
By Simon Abrams
By Michelle Orange
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Nick Schager
By Amy Nicholson
By The Invisible Woman
By I Used to Be Darker
If Speed 2: Cruise Control were a frantic, zillion-dollar disaster movie in which the world's most luxurious ocean liner hits an iceberg on its maiden voyage and sinks to the bottom of the North Atlantic, people might find it a little hard to believe. If it were a frantic, zillion-dollar disaster movie in which the world's most luxurious ocean liner gets flipped over onto its funnels by a tidal wave 300 feet high, folks might say, Come on, stuff like that doesn't really happen.
Because they understand this natural skepticism on the part of the movie-going public, the makers of Speed 2 have invested all their franticness and their zillion bucks in a plot that makes real sense. Here it is. A psychopathic computer whiz who regularly sticks black leeches on his body in the hope of staving off an incurable disease smuggles a bunch of little bombs onto the world's most luxurious ocean liner in his golf bag. He's hopping mad because the cruise line once fired him. So he reprograms the ship's computers, sets off some explosions, throws the captain overboard, robs the safe and puts the terrified passengers on a collision course with a fully loaded oil tanker.
The villain looks like he's gonna get away with it, too. Except that the bus driver from the first Speed is on board. Along with her new boyfriend from the L.A. Police Department.
Neither one of them knows a propeller blade from a plate of fish tacos, but they're fast learners. While the incompetent crew of the big liner dithers and blithers, landlubbers Annie and Alex boldly take charge, using chainsaws, shotguns, fire axes, scuba gear, fishing rods, Jet Skis and a big wad of men's trousers to save the ship. They also find time to make jokes about penis size.
Between them, our hero and heroine rescue the cute little deaf girl who was trapped in the elevator. They save a jolly fat couple just in time for dinner. They team up for a minute with the ship's black photographer, the kind of guy who keeps snapping away no matter what. You get the idea. They even haul the ship's Latino first officer up from Davy Jones's Locker. He's gagging seawater and has two broken arms, but what the hey. Somebody's gotta get hurt.
In the end, the runaway ship plows through a harbor full of pleasure boats and runs aground, destroying most of a Caribbean village. Technically, director Jan De Bont's ship-to-shore sequence is a mess--none of the shots match up--but he manages to cram in the usual series of oh-my-god! reaction closeups. Meanwhile, the cackling villain, in mid-escape, winds up impaled on the mast of the tanker--seaplane and all. Annie and Alex wind up with marriage plans, love having conquered all on the heaving deep.
Ex-cameraman De Bont, the mayhem-meister who also directed Speed and last summer's tornado-fest, Twister, says he came up with the idea of using a cruise liner in his movie because "I thought it was something that audiences hadn't seen before."
Good thinking. In De Bont's next picture, we can probably look forward to more things audiences haven't seen before. Like cowboys and Indians. Or people slipping on banana peels. Or mean-spirited Nazis. When you're a moviemaker this inventive, the sky's the limit.
The cast of Speed 2 includes returnee Sandra Bullock as the bus-driver-turned-ship-saver, Jason Patric as her new daredevil beau (Keanu Reeves demurred on the sequel) and craggy Willem Dafoe as the bad guy. They are irrelevant to these explosive proceedings.
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