Sea of Love (1989) / Thriller-Romance

MPAA Rated: R for sexuality, nudity, violence, and language
Running Time: 113 min.

Cast: Al Pacino, Ellen Barkin, John Goodman, Michael Rooker, William Hickey, Richard Jenkins, Samuel L. Jackson (cameo), Lorraine Bracco (cameo)
Director: Harold Becker
Screenplay: Richard Price

While Sea of Love probably won't go down as one of Al Pacino's (Scarface, Godfather Part II) greatest films, his performance still makes this otherwise standard police thriller worth watching.  Showing excellent character touches that seem to have inspired the rest of the fine cast, it's an entertaining watch as long as you aren't really that interested in the plotline.  Pacino had been away from movies for almost four years before doing this one, and when you consider his last film was the mega-flop Revolution, it's amazing better roles weren't chosen after the powerhouse performance in Scarface in 1983. 

Pacino plays New York detective Frank Keller, who's facing the potential for retirement after 20 years of service. He has no other life to speak of except his job since his wife left him for a fellow officer.  He and a partner (Goodman, Revenge of the Nerds) across town are assigned to investigate a series of murders where the victims are men who have placed personal ads in the paper only to be found naked and dead from a shot to the head, while the classic "Sea of Love" plays on a record player nearby.  Keller goes undercover posing as a lonely bachelor looking for love after placing their own phony ad, and after not getting fingerprints from a potential suspect (Barkin, She Hate Me), he follows suit and soon the two spend the evening together.  He is still unsure if the may be the "doer" or not, but his attraction to her seems too strong to resist, and it could mean the end of his life if he's wrong.

While director Harold Becker (Mercury Rising, Domestic Disturbance) does an adequate job keeping most of this nonsense together, it's really the script by Richard Price (Mad Dog and Glory, Clockers) that allows the two leads to shine in this sexy thriller.  In addition to Pacino's performance, Barkin performs admirably, showing a vulnerability to make us believe she isn't the killer one second, then a toughness that might suggest otherwise the next.  Excellent characterizations and moments of good humor inject a sense of fun into what could have been another tired and forgettable thriller.  The corny climax could have sunk most films, but the performances, characterizations and witty dialogue assure Sea of Love stays afloat.

Qwipster's rating:

2001 Vince Leo