Sea of Love (1989)
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A great premise that definitely justifies making yet another police procedural, this Al Pacino vehicle won this reviewer over, which is hard to do these days with cop thrillers - once you see enough they all start to look the same.
But here we've got a great script, with some terrific wisecracking cop lines, great actors, especially Pacino, Goodman and sexy Ellen Barkin - which make for a very enjoyable ride. Sure the score is a little 80's, and Ellen Barkin may look back and regret that hair-do, but otherwise this is a very successful piece of film.
This is largely due to the terrific screen presence of Al Pacino - he's such a firecracker! And the hugely enjoyable chemistry between partners Pacino and John Goodman. They play off each other so well. The dating scenes are particularly fun - personal highlights for me. And, of course, Ellen Barkin exudes sensuality. Its incredible.
The title may sound pulpy and cheap - but its for good cause. We find out in the first few minutes that its the name of the song the killer was playing when the first murder of the film occured. Its also ironic - the crime-ridden world of this film is anything but a sea of love.
7/10. Must-see for Pacino fans and fans of cop thrillers. For everyone else, not essential, but great saturday night fair.
It's a perfect setting for a story about a series of murders, seemingly tied together by oldies-but-goodies songs. Keller searches for a killer who seems normal, but on the inside is a smoldering volcano. As a murder mystery, "Sea Of Love" works, because of its focus, and because of its restrictive narration. The viewer knows what Frank Keller knows, but nothing more. Clues are very subtle, and lie more in what is not said, than what is said. The ending was a surprise to me. I did not see it coming.
I have a couple of problems with the film, neither of which is serious. First, there are several plot segments that seem unnecessary, and could have been edited out. Second, certain scenes involving the victims are confusing.
"Sea Of Love" is a mystery/thriller that I recommend highly. It is psychologically intense, and it has an atmosphere that is suitably sinister. The acting, the music, the cinematography, the script, and the production design are all credible. And I could listen all day to that oldies-but-goodies song by Phil Phillips, from 1959.
Al Pacino plays Frank Teller, a self-conscious detectivein search of a serial killerdrawn into a torrid sexual relationship with an attractive young woman he met in a super market when all the good citizens of the city are asleep and the people who are walking around are the ones who are leading the most solitary lives
Helen Barkin is just so right for the part You can believe her when you see her dressed in her red leather jacket and tight jeans She's a lady of the night, sexy as hell, and a woman who can take care of herself Between her and Pacino, there were enough attraction that's deep but also there were feelings of vulnerability and suspicion
"Sea of Love" is one of the best and most underrated thrillers ever. I do not know how many times I have seen this movie since the release in the movie theaters, then on VHS and now on DVD. The classy story is a film-noir perfectly developed, and shows one of the most erotic love scenes of the cinema history. Al Pacino is simply perfect, showing a perfect chemistry with the sexy Ellen Barkin, who is in the top of her career, and also with John Goodman. The soundtrack is also one of the most beautiful of the cinema, and the CD with eleven songs is fantastic. Samuel L Jackson, in the beginning of career, plays a criminal in the story with a minor participation. My vote is nine.
Title(Brazil): "Vítimas de uma Paixão" ("Victims of a Passion")
The suspense is what this film is all about, but I am fascinated with these actors, including supporting performances by Michael Rooker and William Hickey. Although her looks are a little hard and her mouth way too profane for my tastes, Barkin never looked better and sexier. That Pacino's character, "Detective Frank Keller" would fall for her is understandable, especially know what part of his anatomy is doing the "talking." However, adultery, once again is excused in this film along with other not-so-moral acts so this isn't a film you want to show to your church group. All three of the leads are very weak, ethically-speaking.
The fact that this film can go on for almost two hours with very little action and still keep you riveted to your seat speaks highly of its entertainment value. Why critics knocked it so much, I don't know. Hey, it's good entertainment. What more do you want?
The support is equally good John Goodman is the soul of cheerful, friendly understanding, just as he was before revealing his slightly berserk side in "Barton Fink." His smile, his hand gestures, are so practiced and effective. (Alas he's required to do one of those stupid male strip-tease dances like Gene Hackman's in "Scarecrow" and Michael Ontkean's in "Slap Shot." Are they supposed to be entertaining? Amusing? What.) I always enjoy Bill Hickey too, here as Pacino's father. There was just something about Hickey that made his every performance memorable. Too bad he didn't spend more time on screen during his career. Rooker, as the murderer, is typecast but gets the job done.
The direction is competent, but the writing, by Richard Price, is more than that. It's really pretty good. Not just in the dramatic scenes but in the interpolated comic interludes as well. Pacino is pitching woo to a beautiful woman who apologizes for being older than he is. Pacino's reply: "Are you kidding? You're twice as good looking as three quarters of the women I know who are half your age.... Did that come out right?" What's also admirable about the script is that it focuses about equally on this developing but disturbing romance and the crime plot. Many of the scenes are shot at night and they don't make easy use of New York locations. Pacino and Barkin don't throw themselves into an embrace in front of the fountain at Lincoln Center.
Nobody drives across the Brooklyn Bridge. In fact, nobody drives, so there are no car chases ending in collosal crashes on the FDR, which is fine with me.
It's still a genre movie, not very demanding of the audience, but it's quite well done. I'm not fond of "Sea of Love" the song, or any of 50s rock, but Pacino and the others would be. There's nothing much else in the way of a score, but I must mention the scene in which Pacino takes Barkin to a fancy restaurant to propose to her. The waiter takes forever to bring a menu. Meanwhile Pacino is nervously belting down drinks (the payoff comes later) and the most hideous strolling violinist in the world keep playing absolutely lousy renditions of "Strangers in the Night" and something that Bach might have written during a hallucination. Just terrible. My twelve-year-old kid would have been more often on key. This guy is lost on the Kreisler Highway.
The erotic thriller is a tough premise to get right on film, so many elements have to fall in to place for the film to win over critics and film goers alike. Chemistry of lead cast members, a gripping plot, plausible outcome, and so on. Too many over the years have failed miserably at it, resorting to either gratuitous tactics or simple star casting to entice the paying public in to the theatre. Sea of Love is not a complete success, but it's certainly one of the best of its type. Were it not for a weak murder motive that's not fully explored, resulting in something of an unsatisfying finale, we would probably be talking about Sea of Love being the template movie for the erotic thriller.
All else that leads up to the last 15 minutes is sizzling, Barkin and Pacino spark in every scene they share, where even with the sex scenes, the fact that Barkin towers over Pacino doesn't detract from the sexual chemistry, it adds to it. It's smart, too, that we don't see Barkin for the first third of the movie, the anticipation builds up and thankfully upon arriving into the picture she doesn't disappoint. Goodman is ebullient and makes a good foil for Pacino's haggard life sucks act, his Sherman an easy to get on side with character.
The guessing game at the heart of the plot is well handled by the makers, there's no stupid giveaways or overkill of red herrings, while the edgy lonely hearts basis for both the killings and the investigative trap is nicely written by Richard Price. Fusing both loneliness and sexual needs together as one, Becker is able to get much emotional mileage out of the story. If only the ending could have made good on the promise shown. Come the last 15 minutes the "is she or isn't she the killer?" factor has run out of steam, with what follows inducing cries of "oh, is that it?"- instead of- "oh my god!". Damn shame that. 7.5/10
Police Detective Frank Keller (Al Pacino) is assigned to investigate a murder in Manhattan in which a man was shot dead whilst lying face down and naked on his bed. At the crime scene, the song "Sea Of Love" is being played on a nearby turntable and the items of evidence found include a cigarette end with lipstick on it, a set of fingerprints and a newspaper cutting which includes a lonely hearts advert placed by the deceased. The evidence suggests that the killer was probably an embittered woman who'd replied to the victim's ad.
When Keller meets Detective Sherman Touhey (John Goodman) who's investigating a murder which was carried out in identical circumstances in Queens, the two men decide to join forces in their search for what appears to be a serial killer. After a third man is murdered in the same way, the two detectives embark on a scheme to identify the culprit. As all three victims had placed rhyming ads, the detectives place their own rhyming entry in the personal column and then invite the respondents to a date at a local restaurant. There Keller acts as the guy who'd placed the ad and Touhey acts as a waiter who collects the women's wine glasses and places them in evidence bags so that the fingerprints can be checked against those found at the murder scenes.
One of the women who meets Keller is Helen Kruger (Ellen Barkin). She very quickly seems to become uncomfortable with him and leaves without having touched her glass. A chance meeting with her some time later provides Keller with an opportunity to get her fingerprints but things get more complicated and his priorities change when he becomes infatuated with her and they get involved in a very passionate affair.
Al Pacino, in one of his best ever screen performances, is totally believable as the lonely, jaded cop who has completed 20 years in the job and experiences a feeling of dread when the subject of retirement is mentioned as he has nothing in life but his job. His wife left him for one of his colleagues, he drinks too much and he's more then a little bitter. Pacino's deportment exudes all these characteristics in spades and it's quite credible that the despair of someone in his circumstances could lead them into a reckless affair with an attractive murder suspect.
Ellen Barkin is brilliant as the inscrutable Helen who, importantly in the context of the plot, shows all the attributes of a femme fatale. She gives out contradictory signals, can be alternately aggressive and vulnerable and seems to have a low opinion of men although she's obviously powerfully attracted to them.
John Goodman is also great as Keller's good natured, extrovert partner and his sense of fun illuminates a number of scenes.
The deep rooted sense of sadness and loneliness which is a significant feature of the characters played by Pacino and Barkin is also reflected in the melancholic quality of Trevor Jones' superb score, the song "Sea Of Love" and the exceptional shadow laden cinematography by Ronnie Taylor.
My biggest problem with this movie is the abundance of plot holes that never get filled. What does the song "Sea of Love" have anything to do with anything? Why does the killer leave it playing on the victim's turntable instead of taking it with him? Why don't the cops go to record stores to ask who has been buying this same old 45 once a week? Why do the cops continue with their lonely hearts baiting scheme if there aren't any more killings once Pacino meets Barkin? Why did the killer wait so long to attack Pacino when it was obvious he killed the other men immediately after his ex-wife's first encounter with them? What cop doesn't have photographs of other cops hanging all over the walls in his apartment so that anyone who walks in can tell right off the bat that he's a cop? What man who gets sloppy drunk every night keeps such a neat apartment in the first place? What man considers asking a woman to move in with him when he hasn't even met the woman's child and doesn't even know the kid's name? Why did Barkin's character stay with Pacino's character after she found out what an annoying lush he was? And most importantly, what woman would allow her husband to invite a complete stranger to her daughter's wedding at the very last minute, and then let them discuss police work? It wasn't a completely bad movie, and there were some good parts, but overall it left me wondering about too many things.
He's on a case regarding a swinger who was shot in the back of the head while listening to an oldie record 45 titled, "sea of Love". A chance meeting with another detective from another precinct, Det. Sherman(John Goodman in a terrific performance)points to a possible string of killings as they find both their cases have the same MO. They decide to work together when they find that prints match from both of their cases and both males had put poems in the singles-ads. Frank wants to try this himself, with both he and Sherman believing the killer is a female with wrath towards ladies' men as the motive.
Keller, after going through several dates with many women who answer the ad(..which came from a poem Frank's mom wrote), begins a steamy love-affair with a sexy divorcée into kink. That female is Helen Cruger(Ellen Barkin, heating the screen), and she has Frank feeling like a teenager. But, Frank begins questioning their relationship when he begins noticing little signs that may point to Helen possibly being the very killer he's investigating. This is true center of the story and a conflict plaguing Frank who is just head-over-heels for Helen.
I must say this is one of my favorite Pacino performances because he wears weariness like a badge on his face. I felt Pacino plays him right showing a cop really damaged by a failed marriage and hitting the point in his life where he could retire from the force which brings up his age which torments him. Then this seductive gal comes along and throws him for a loop, rejuvenating him. I think Barkin is flat-out hot as the love-interest. I think she provides just the right amount of mystery that has us questioning her much like Frank eventually does. The film has a great dynamic between Pacino and Goodman which only makes it even better.
The cast is top notch. Ellen Barkin is adequate and sexy as Detective Frank Keller's (Pacino's character) love interest and John Goodman does an excellent supporting job as Detective Sherman.
Al Pacino is very well known for his legendary roles in The Godfather trilogy, Serpico, Scarface, or Scent of a Woman, but in my humble opinion as Detective Frank Keller in Harold Becker's Sea of Love he delivers one of his finest and most underrated performances.
If you think Basic Instinct (a much better known film) is a good thriller please check out Sea of love and you'll realize that Paul Verhoeven's movie is not a big deal.
This might not be one of the '80s most memorable films but it is well worth watching if you enjoy cop movies. Al Pacino does a fine job as Keller and has a good chemistry with John Goodman, who plays Touhey. He also has a believable chemistry with Ellen Barkin's Helen... simultaneously falling in love and occasionally fearing she could kill him. Barkin is really good as Helen; sexy but slightly ambiguous. Inevitably there are some twists along the way before we finally learn who the killer is. The story has a good neo-noir feel with plenty of tension and ambiguous characters while managing to avoid some clichés I'd expected. Overall a solid film that I'd recommend to fans of the genre; a must see for Pacino's fans.
The erotic thriller is a tough premise to get right on film, so many elements have to fall in to place for the film to win over critics and film goers alike. Chemistry of lead cast members, a gripping plot, plausible outcome, and so on. Too many over the years have failed miserably at it, resorting to either gratuitous tactics or simple star casting to entice the paying public in to the theater. Sea of Love is not a complete success, but it's certainly one of the best of its type. Were it not for a weak murder motive that's not fully explored, resulting in something of an unsatisfying finale, we would probably be talking about Sea of Love being the template movie for the erotic thriller.
This movie of the same name, made 30 years later, evidently uses "Sea of Love," an evergreen rock and roll hit, as a theme. The song was written by New Orleans native John Phillip Baptiste, AKA Phil Phillips, who had a hit with it on its first release in 1959. John Goodman brings a lot to this movie: he ably supports the stars, when they've got their clothes on, playing Pacino's new cop partner Sherman Touhey. And when the Missouri-born Goodman delivers an "acapella" version of "Sea of Love," in that New Orleans accent he's entitled to use, well, he just stops the show. This movie has great New York ambiance, a good plot, good acting, a good sound track, Ellen Barkin at her most gorgeous, hot sex scenes, and touches of humor. It stands up to repeated viewings, and like Mr. Dangerfield, it deserves some respect.
Overall rating: 9 out of 10.
Celebrating 20 years of being on the force, Det.Frank Keller finds any party plans of his being stopped in their tracks,thanks to the discovery of a man who has died from a bullet shot in the back of his head.Attempting to find any leads which could get him on the track to finding the killer,Frank runs into Det.Sherman,who tells Keller that he has come to pay a visit,due to a recent murder taking place in his area,which matches the one that Frank's currently investigating.
Deciding to team up on the case,Frank and Sherman uncover the fact that each of the murder victims had placed rhyming lonely hearts ads in a magazine.Realizing that the murderer is killing anyone who places a rhyming ad in the magazine,Keller and Sherman decide to go undercover by placing a rhyming lonely hearts ad which will get the killer out of the shadows.As they start to check up on the replies to the ad,Frank and Sherman begin to fear that their case is going to be broken by a deadly lonely heart.
View on the film:
Cruising back into the film world after leaving it behind in 1985,Al Pacino gives an excellent performance which reveals that the passing years had not made Pacino lose his grove.Displaying all the wear & tear that Keller has seen over the last 20 years across his face,Pacino brilliantly shows Keller to be a booze-soaked detective,whose drinking habits our only matched by his thrust to walk down the city's darken streets.As the movie begins to steam up,Pacino allows nervousness to enter his performance,as Keller starts to suspect that he may be getting much closer to the lonely heart killer than he had originally expected.
Joining Pacino,John Goodman gives a great jet black performance as Sherman,with Goodman shining up a number of the titles darkly comedic moments.Creating an extremely sensual atmosphere as Frank's temptation,Ellen Barkin gives a brilliant performance as Helen Cruger,with Barkin, (who along with appearing naked in the movie,also reunited with Pacino in 2007 for Ocean's 13) perfectly balancing the mysterious sexual side of this femme fatale, that might make her the lonely heart killer,with a subtle tension based around Cruger, (who unlike most female characters in this sub-genre,is a single mum) allowing Keller to enter her dating life.
Building a tantalising tower by combining the Erotic Thriller sub- genre with a bubbling Neo-Noir intensity and a sharp serial Killer bite,the screenplay by Richard Price makes sure that the films steamiest moments are tightly threaded to a Neo-Noir atmosphere which gives the movie a raw feel,thanks to Price showing that Keller's down on his luck heart,might lead to him becoming another victim of the lonely heart killer.
After building up a wonderful tense atmosphere,with director Harold Becker, (who along with later doing another Erotic Thriller Neo- Noir called Malice,reunited with Pacino in 1996 for City Hall)using coiled tracking shots to show the breaking streets that Keller walks down,Price goes for a left-field ending,which sadly deflates some of the unease in Helen and Keller's relationship,and also rubs off some of the ink from this Neo-Nor's lonely hearts ad.