Speed 2: Cruise Control Review

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A luxury cruise liner is taken over by terrorists and Annie Porter, once again, finds herself playing heroine.


How good was the original Speed? So good that the balsawood Keanu Reeves couldn't spoil it. Its runaway lift/bus/train axis was so brazen, it was impossible not to get carried along. The inevitable Speed 2 docks with a dippy subtitle, a convenient pun characteristic of the entire movie, which isn't anything like bad - just likely to induce that sinking feeling before it starts.

It's wet. And not just in a maritime sense. Aboard the Seabourn Legend, a luxury liner messing about in the Caribbean, we find Speed's Annie Porter (Bullock), who's wisely dumped Keanu and is on a make-or-break romantic holiday with new beau Alex Shaw (Patric), an intrepid SWAT who risks his finely-chiselled life on a daily basis. After going steady for seven months, he plans to spring the engagement ring while at sea. Human interest in place (the diamond sparkler will remain, implausibly, in Patric's trouser pocket for the action's entire duration), the trouble is piped aboard in the form of Geiger (Dafoe), a disgruntled ex-employee of the line who devised its computer infrastructure, and plans to hijack the tub with one mad eye on some diamonds, the other on a psychotic industrial tribunal. By the way, he keeps leeches in his bath and talks to them.

Geiger infiltrates the system to trigger a bogus fire alarm in order to necessitate a passenger evacuation, and in the ensuing lifeboat confusion, Patric and Bullock opt to stay behind when he smells a rat who isn't leaving the sinking ship. As they grapple for control, the boat hurtles towards an oil tanker, various stragglers need rescuing, and the Speed bit begins.

The well-staged, evening-dress panic scenes are straight out of The Poseidon Adventure, which is no bad thing, even if one gag is a shameless steal - survivors are forced to take off their clothes to plug a gas leak, and one woman refuses to disrobe because she hasn't got any underwear on. Speed 2's continual nods to old movies like the aforementioned, The Last Voyage and A Night To Remember are balanced out only by Speed in-jokes - the dude who had his car nicked in the first film returns, only to have his speedboat acquisitioned; Bullock is almost hit by a speeding bus while on a driving test - and, curiously, a "quote" from Crimson Tide about Kurt Jurgens' role in The Enemy Below.

The action, as you'd expect with Speed king Jan De Bont at the rudder, is coolly done - plenty of slippery ropes, thundering propellers, flooding corridors, tricky hatches, even a chainsaw - and anything the out-of-control liner rams into is a point in the momentum's favour. However, this particular runaway vehicle is moving at 18 knots (roughly 20 miles an hour!) and thus lacks the urgency of the big bus. Meanwhile, top-billed Sandra Bullock, formerly an accidental heroine, is insultingly sidelined here to boyfriend's little helper and hostage-in-waiting. Patric is the film's actual seabourn legend, and a watchable one, but the pair's gooey relationship sorely lacks Speed's thrown-together dynamic.

Indeed, the entire shebang could've done with a dose of the first film's dark, nutty urgency; hell, the climactic crash is even played for knockabout comedy. Speed 2 is a well-above-average armrest-gripper with little in it to upset the children excepting, perhaps, Dafoe's lengthy white teeth, and the fact that UB40 provide onboard cabaret.

A pedestrian thriller that never captures the thrill of the first, and even more criminally sidelines Bullock.