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2 minute read
Richard Schickel

The human propensity to tamper with a good thing is probably ineluctable. In the movie game it is known as the Curse of the Sequel Monster. Or, more properly, the Monster Sequel.

The latest, but surely not the last, case in point is Speed 2: Cruise Control, unworthy successor to the last action movie that ran as much on wit as it did on special effects. That film was in touch, however goofily, with some of our everyday anxieties–a runaway bus on a screwed-up freeway is not entirely beyond our ken. At the very least we can imagine being caught in the resulting traffic jam.

But a Caribbean cruise ship, its controls fritzed by a mad computer genius (there’s no other kind in the movies these days) and set on a collision course first with a loaded oil tanker, then with a resort island? No, this is not a scenario that haunts our sleepless nights.

What’s worse, that ship is packed with standard-issue fools, whose function is to react badly to all the movie’s fires, floods and explosions. In this melee it’s hard to develop characters we can get behind. Sandra Bullock, of course, is back as Annie, but the combination of pluck and vulnerability that made her so winsome in the Ur-Speed is missing here. This time she exists mainly to get tied up and abducted by Willem Dafoe, an actor who can never quite transcend (or enjoy) his inherent weirdness the way Dennis Hopper does. Jason Patric and his rippling pecs fill in for willowy Keanu Reeves as Annie’s protector (and, in this case, lover). He’s stalwart and athletic, but fundamentally uninteresting.

This is not entirely his fault. The screenwriters, Randall McCormick and Jeff Nathanson, and the director, Jan de Bont, have no interest in providing their actors with stuff to act. Their job is to keep the whammos coming. Our job is to sit there, absorb the blows and pretend to like their cold expertise. With De Bont’s quick wit and tense minimalism on the first Speed still fresh in mind, that’s hard work.


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