Little do they know that on their cruise ship will be disgruntled former employee John Geiger (Willem Dafoe), who is a little put out by the fact that he has not gotten considerable recognition for his designing of the cruise line's computer systems. Geiger is packing leeches, pseudo-bombs - and those aren't golf clubs! With his technological savvy, he takes control of the ship and redirects its course so it will run directly into the cliffs of an island. Things do not go according to plan; a couple of people die, and lots of stuff explodes.
Jason: Director Jan De Bont ("Speed") is working on a downward spiral, trying to see just how awful he can make a movie before the public stops buying. The first "Speed" was a clever, engrossing concept-movie that had a brilliant storyline. "Twister" was marvelous spectacle but emotional drivel - the dialogue, acting and plot were dead. "Speed 2" has no story and no spectacle. Almost all the action occurs in a slackened pace - De Bont often gets the camera to slow down. I think he forgot he was making an ACTION picture.
Paul: De Bont does pull off a few visually impressive shots, but c'mon, how exciting can you get at 15 knots? This is a cruise ship, for pete's sake, and everything develops soooo slowly. It doesn't help when it's not exactly clear what Geiger's intentions are - the movie just isn't tense. And that Jason Patric - this guy is like Mr. Cookie-Cutter Action Hero. He looks great out there, but he's dreadfully bland. You can't convey a sense of high tension when you star looks like he's actually on vacation.
Jason: I enjoyed Patric's performance. I thought he did the best he could with the trite, vapid script. He definitely has a lot more going on than Keanu Reeves did in "Speed" - at least his facial muscles move, and his vocal cords vary. I did think that the chemistry between Bullock and he was poorly tweaked with a couple of very weak attempts at romance. Their relationship is not interesting or stalwart enough to carry the picture - and neither is the villain. I agree that Dafoe's character seems to have been airbrushed over. The writing team of Randall McCormack and Jeff Mathanson (beware; "Speed 2" features two movie don'ts - an extra title, and an extra writer) fails to develop anything - character-wise or suspense-wise. There are a couple of localized scenes of tension, but the central motif of a cruise ship traveling at very low speeds in the vicinity of an ocean-liner and island is about as exhilarating as, well, a cruise.
Paul: Most big-budget action films of today at least have grand visions in mind: mass destruction, invading aliens, senseless slaughter, mythic characters, etc. "Speed 2" settles for a few generic heroes, a mildly disturbed computer whiz, contrived situations, and weak pyrotechnics. And it barely even lives up to these standards. It's not breaking any new ground. And where other films may borrow from the cinematic ancestors, "Speed 2" seems to steal from good ol' T.V.: think "Love Boat" meets "Star Trek" meets "Gilligan's Island" meets a Dramamine commercial.
If you plan on seeing this movie on purpose, think of it as the ultimate popcorn movie. By this we mean, start watching, get up, go to the lobby, stand in the long line, get your food, loiter, read a book, return, and, guess what, you haven't missed anything. Repeat if necessary.
Jason Myers is a senior at North Hagerstown High School. Paul A. Smith works in The Herald-Mail's circulation department.