Speed 2 (1997)

Cruising isn't exactly a high excitement activity. It implies a certain languor, a leisurely lifestyle, a wandering nature. It does not imply speed. The oxymoronic title of *Speed 2: Cruise Control* is meant to be punny, since most of the action, such as it is, occurs on a cruise ship. But there's a lot more cruising than speeding in this waterlogged high seas adventure. Snooze Control would have been a more apt title for this damp, derivative *Love Boat* meets *The Poseidon Adventure* meets *Under Siege*. Were it not insufferably irritating, *Speed 2* would have been merely insufferably boring.

Among the uncommon irritants to which this movie subjects its audience are emergency lights that flash constantly for at least half the movie, and the shaky camera effect, suggesting a drunken steadicam operator, that is *Speed 2*'s primary stylistic effect. As an effect, and used properly and with restraint, the shaky camera can create a sense of tension, but as it is abused here, it is more likely to cause seasickness and, in vulnerable individuals, epileptic seizures. Let me be the first to suggest an instant moratorium on the rampant misuse of this nauseating effect in entertainment.

But back to that cruise ship. Annie (Sandra Bullock), charming heroine and ersatz bus driver of *Speed*, finds herself on the *Seabourn Legend* with her new cop boyfriend Alex (Jason Patric). All is well until a mad bomber (Willem Dafoe) hijacks the boat using smoke bombs disguised as golf balls. Geiger the bomber is disgruntled because his employer fired him when he became terminally ill with copper poisoning as a result of designing cruise ship computer systems. Or so he says. Geiger takes lots of pills and periodically applies leeches to himself, when he isn't planting golf balls in the air vents, throwing people overboard and laughing maniacally. Geiger is no mere terrorist, however; his elaborate and nefarious plot is actually a ruse designed to divert attention while he steals jewels from the ship's vaults as the terrified passengers abandon ship. Of course, none of this would have happened in Canada, where they have national health insurance.

Geiger's plan goes awry, as such plans always do, and Alex, Annie and a bunch of whiny passengers are stranded on the ship, which is cruising towards a Caribbean island at a terrifying 17 knots (the land equivalent of about 21 miles per hour, or, less than half the velocity of the runaway bus in *Speed*). Why doesn't everyone just jump off the ship? Apparently they'll be pureed into fish food by the massive propellers, unless, of course, they jump off the back of the boat, where they'll be safely whooshed out to sea, but nobody ever thinks of that. That's the problem with stressful situations and dumb movies -- nobody ever thinks of the right thing to do at the right time.

The plot of *Speed 2*, scripted by Randall McCormick and Jeff Nathanson from director Jan DeBont's story, has enough holes in it to sink the Bismarck. There's not a single lifeline in the form of decent subplot, dialogue, character development, or humor, either. Most of the lifeless dialogue involves characters reporting on events in the movie with a blow-by-blow account of the action, sort of like watching the Olympics, only much less interesting. Since he's a saucy villain, Geiger gets the wittiest lines this movie has to offer, and says memorably uninspired things like "Let's see how he likes that!" and "How do you like your vacation now?"

The closest *Speed 2* gets to character development and humor is taking characters from *Speed* and placing them in similar situations in *Speed 2*. So Annie is once again taken hostage by a mad bomber, and hapless traveller Maurice (Glenn Plummer) once again has his vehicle commandeered by a cop on a more or less high speed chase. Oh, the irony. Meanwhile, Alex, the putative hero of this soggy tale, is so bloodless and dull that one suspects he's feeding a stash of leeches of his own. With all that dead weight, it's little wonder this leaky vessel sinks like a stone (although stuff like this usually floats).

Bullock works overtime to compensate for her zombie-like co-star -- a far better movie would have developed Annie into a full-fledged heroine, rather than devolving her character into a passive, imperiled Pauline. Bullock is quickly dragged under by the feckless Patric. Not one single emotion found purchase on his stony face, nor anywhere else on his person, throughout the entire movie, not even when he was barking orders at the poor little deaf girl who got stuck in the elevator. Dafoe gets all buggy-eyed in his effort to inject some life into the psycho du jour, to little effect. Temuera Morrison shows action-hero potential as first-mate Juliano, but like everyone else who actually bothers to act in this movie, the script gives him only one oar to row with, and he, too, goes down with the ship.

Despite every desperate measure taken to pump interest into the underinflated, hyperventilating *Speed 2*, this movie is slower than a slow boat to China. There's lots of screaming and shaking and swimming and quaking, with big boats, little boats, sail boats and even menacing oil tankers, but none of it adds up to anything other than sound and fury. Long before the laughably idiotic and headache-inducing climax, *Speed 2* makes like the *Titanic* and capsizes.