Should I Watch..? Speed 2: Cruise Control
What's the big deal?
Speed 2: Cruise Control is an action thriller film released in 1997 and is the sequel to 1994's runaway hit Speed. Directed once again by Jan de Bont, the film sees Sandra Bullock reprise her role as Annie who this time is caught up with the schemes of another insane bomber but this time on a cruise ship. Keanu Reeves, who declined to return for the sequel, is replaced by Jason Patric who plays Annie's new boyfriend Alex, a member of the LAPD SWAT team who is also on board. The film was almost universally panned upon release with critics slamming the picture for being poorly written, poorly performed and for being set on a slow cruise liner instead of a speeding bus. Despite this and a total of eight Razzie nominations, it still took just shy of $165 million at the global box office (less than half the takings of the original).
What's it about?
Upset that her new boyfriend Alex lied to her about his job (she thought he was a beach cop instead of being part of a SWAT team), Annie is surprised when Alex invites her to join him on a Caribbean cruise. Soaking up the sunshine, they are blissfully unaware that the ship's computer system is hacked by John Geiger from his cabin on the ship. During the night, Geiger manages to kill the captain before taking over the ship's navigation systems.
First officer Juliano is then informed by Geiger of events thus far and is ordered to evacuate the other passengers from the ship in the middle of the night. Sensing something might be wrong, Annie and Alex are split up during the evacuation and remain on the cruise liner whilst rescuing other passengers stranded aboard. While Annie desperately tries to free other passengers trapped on board, Alex goes after Geiger himself - who seems to have every eventuality covered...
Jan de Bont
Randall McCormick & Jeff Nathanson *
Release Date (UK)
15th August, 1997
Action, Disaster, Thriller
Worst Remake or Sequel
Razzie Award Nominations
Worst Picture, Worst Actress (Bullock), Worst Screen Couple (Bullock & Patric), Worst Supporting Actor (Defoe), Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Original Song ("My Dream")
What's to like?
It's easy to start off with the negatives but Speed 2: Cruise Control at least warns you that it's going to be a turkey with it's stupid pun title. Looking for positives is tricky but the action scenes are performed with plenty of gusto and in lots of very cold water so I have to credit the cast with that. Viewers of these sort of ridiculous action movies (which, when it comes down to it, was all the first film was) are going to spout off about the ludicrous nature of the plot or characters such as Geiger who uses leeches to treat his copper poisoning. Instead, they are going to applaud the action and applaud they will.
They'll also enjoy the effects as the various shots of the runaway cruise liner speeding towards oil tankers, beach communities and other highly combustible targets are look real enough. The film revels in its own goofiness - I loved the shot of Geiger pulling out from his bag of evil toys something called a Fiber Optic Converter. I know exactly what it was called because it had such a big label on the top of it, despite not having the slightest clue what one does. Towards the end, it goes completely off-the-rails as the Scottish navigator Merced simply has to read out the speed of the ship while clearly jiggling and wobbling about on the bridge like a bad extra on the Sixties Star Trek TV show. Only Morrison seems to keep a straight face during the carnage so he gets a gold star for his efforts.
Oh and there are no buses anywhere to be found which is nice if you dislike public transport.
- Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel were the only two critics who gave the film a positive review according to the website Rotten Tomatoes. Ebert said that of all the reviews he'd ever given, his article on Speed 2: Cruise Control was the one he had to defend the most often.
- Both Patric and Bullock have since slated the film. Bullock, who only accepted the role to finance her pet project Hope Floats, referred to this movie as "the biggest piece of crap ever made".
- The stunt where the ship crashes into port became the most expensive stunt ever filmed at the time. That sequence alone cost $25 million of the film's $110 million budget.
What's not to like?
On the face of it, both this and its parent picture actually have a lot in common. The plots are ridiculous, the characters are unbelievable, the villain is brilliantly over-the-top and the action is implausible. However, Speed worked because it was a genuinely thrilling and exciting blast of well-made action hokum as well as helmed by a first-class performance from Keanu Reeves. Speed 2: Cruise Control, on the other hand, sadly isn't. The humour and charisma Reeves brought to the first film is completely absent while Patric's no-nonsense hero is as bland a lead character as I can recall. Bullock, despite getting top billing, actually has little to do in the film while Dafoe's evil genius is both utterly lacking in motive and common sense. He couldn't be any madder if he rocked about on his knees, reciting nursery rhymes.
The fault doesn't lay with the cast but the director. De Bont's bonkers tale doesn't even fit the template of the first film in which a bus explodes if it slows down. Here, the ship will only explode if it keeps moving towards a conveniently static oil tanker - oh and a cruise liner isn't that fast either. The script is also full of annoying characters with annoying dialogue like the ship's photographer who insists on snapping pictures of flooding rooms and drowning passengers and Harvey, a fat sweaty man who serves no purpose other than to dismiss the theory that an on-board explosion is an earthquake ("It can't be - we're at sea!"). Maybe action fans can forgive the film's insult to their intelligence but Speed 2: Cruise Control is so insulting that I know I certainly couldn't.
Should I watch it?
For a film that many people consider to be one of the worst sequels of all time, Speed 2: Cruise Control contains enough hijinks and action scenes to justify its existence to patient, forgiving and undemanding action fans. But for those who loved the first film, this is a sorry excuse for a follow-up as it's deficient in every department apart from the amount of water on-screen. Rarely does such a great film get followed by such a complete clunker but this film really does deserve to be hit by an iceberg.
Great For: stay-at-home commentaries, bad movie nights, masochists
Not So Great For: fans of the first film, fans of action cinema, fans of any other kind of cinema
What else should I watch?
In case it wasn't obvious by now, you're much better sticking with the original. Speed is everything that its dim-witted descendent isn't - fast, thrilling, exciting and entertaining. Reeves delivers an unusually charismatic performance, Dennis Hopper is in blistering form, Bullock develops real chemistry with her co-star and the film has enough action sequences to knock a house down. It remains one of the best action films of the 1990's, despite having its reputation sullied by this garbage.
But supposing you enjoy bad movies and judging by the success of the Sharknado series, it would appear that some viewers do though I am powerless to speculate as to why. What else comes close to the rancid awfulness of this film? A good place to start is Ballistic: Ecks Vs Sever which is as dumb an action film as I can recall that sees Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu earn a quick pay-check by appearing in a cheap imitation of The Matrix. And of course, there is always Tommy Wiseau's infamous The Room which continues to rank among the very worst things ever made in the history of human civilisation. If someone dug down far enough to break into Hell itself and release Satan from his fiery domain, it still won't be as bad an idea as The Room was. To watch it is to give up a tiny shard of your soul.
© 2015 Benjamin Cox