Movie of the Week: ‘Sea of Love’

“Sea of Love” (1989) – New York City Police Detective Frank Keller (Pacino) reaches 20 years on the force, and his colleagues start whispering, “Retirement.”  Hey, let’s face it, no one murmurs in NYC, so yes, he hears their calls.  Walking away with his pension has its appeals, but Frank’s a homicide detective through and through.  He has no plans to open a B&B in Clearwater Beach because solving murder cases is his life’s work, and he’ll have to roll up his sleeves for this puzzling new one.

In director Harold Becker’s whodunit, someone forces a Manhattan man to lay face down on a bed and then shoots him in the back of the head while Phil Phillips’ “Sea of Love” (1959) 45 record plays on a repeat loop.  No, that’s not the best way to fondly “remember when we met.” 

Helen Cruger (Ellen Barkin)

When a similar shooting occurs across town, Queens Det. Sherman (John Goodman) joins Keller to find their suspect, and they discover that both victims put ads in “NY Weekly Magazine” for blind dates.  Hey, this was 1989.  Match.com and eHarmony.com weren’t invented yet.  Anyway, Sherman and Keller decide to place a fake advertisement in the same paper to lure this femme fatale out in the open.  When an alluring lady, Helen Cruger (Ellen Barkin), arrives with a red leather jacket and plenty of attitude, they may have found their killer, but Frank – still trying to get over his ex-wife – starts dating her. 

Oh, walk away, Frank!    

Helen (Barkin) and Det. Frank Keller (Al Pacino)

“Sea of Love” arrived in theatres two years after “Fatal Attraction” (1987), so the threat of a murderous blonde girlfriend feels a little familiar, but Pacino and Barkin sell this anxious relationship.  Barkin’s Helen seems dangerous in the dead of night and broad daylight.  Still, she has emotional and physical holds on Frank, and his attraction to – and fear of – the flame easily translates from the screen to theatres and living rooms everywhere.  Should Frank propose or call for backup?  It’s a great question because let’s not forget why Frank and Helen met. 

⭐⭐⭐ 1/2 out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Directed by: Harold Becker

Written by: Richard Price

Starring: Al Pacino, Ellen Barkin, and John Goodman

Rated: R

Runtime: 113 minutes

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