Sea of Love (1989)

sea of love poster 1989 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Has a nice sleazy feel

So-so story, Pacino is a bit too much

Movie Info

Movie Name: Sea of Love

Studio: Universal Pictures

Genre(s): Mystery/Suspense/Romance

Release Date(s): September 15, 1989

MPAA Rating: R

sea of love al pacino john goodman

Desperately Seeking Susan…with a killer

Someone is murder men in New York City, and police have tied the murders to dating ads.  Detective Frank Keller (Al Pacino) and Detective Sherman (John Goodman) team up to stake out the potential murderers, and Keller finds himself specifically drawn to single mother and shoe salesman Helen Cruger (Ellen Barkin).  With no evidence that she’s not the killer, Keller finds himself stuck between suspicion and love.  Keller is getting deeper and deeper, and the evidence is all pointing to Helen.

Directed by Harold Becker, Sea of Love is a mystery romance thriller.  The film was successful in the box office and received relatively positive reviews.

I never saw Sea of Love and watched it for the first time recently.  Pacino can be hit or miss.  When he hits, he hits, but Sea of Love feels like it is a little too much Pacino.  Due to aspects of the plot, a ******spoiler alert****** is in effect for the rest of the review.

sea of love al pacino ellen barkin sex scene

Be gentle with me

The mystery isn’t very mysterious.  Unlike something like Basic Instinct (which has a similar feel and story), it doesn’t ever feel like Helen is guilty.  It is too easy of an answer so you just keep looking for suspects.  The movie suffers from “hey, I know that guy…he has a really small role” syndrome when a known actor is in a bit role.  Like many movies where this happens, they become the obvious murderer.  Here, it is Michael Rooker who wasn’t a huge name at the time, but known enough from Henry:  Portrait of a Killer (which got him the roll) to be suspect when he showed up…especially now as his fame has grown.

Pacino is just too much from the beginning.  He’s moody, weepy, and kind of irritating.  I don’t want Barkin to end up with him because he’s going to ruin her life.  They play the alcoholism card when it feels necessary, but a lot of his behavior seems to just be him…in addition to being a bad person for Helen, to hook up with, he’s also a bad cop.  John Goodman is quite young in the movie and doesn’t carry the role as well as he does later.  Ellen Barkin gets that sensuality that the character needs and Michael Rooker is just full tilt the whole time.  The movie also has appearances by Richard Jenkins, William Hickey, John Spencer, Lorraine Bracco (in deleted scenes), and Samuel L. Jackson credited as “Black Guy”.

sea of love michael rooker al pacino

I just can stop people from forcing themselves on me.

The movie does have that dirty New York feel that was lost later.  It largely used exteriors when filming (shooting most of the film in Canada), but it is a bit grittier than some of the other late 1980s New York movies which focused on the “greed good” upper class New York.

Sea of Love is a bit of a snoozer and kind of evolves where you expect to evolve.  The movie in its own way is a romance, but it is a romance that doesn’t make you feel good.  There is a strange sense of reverse victimization with Pacino’s character being the weaker character in most scenes (even involving Barkin), but the potentially interesting aspect isn’t explored enough.  It isn’t a bad movie, but it is a mundane film that never seems to rise about the minutiae of the script that thinks it is better than it is.  Sea of Love feels like a lot of other thrillers, but if you are looking for a thriller for the night, it should fit the bill.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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