Film review - Forgotten gems 


Sea of Love.

(Cert 18)

Genre: Crime Thriller.

Starring: Al Pacino, Ellen Barkin, John Goodman.

Release: 1989.

Time: 108 mins.


My rating: 4 Stars

A far cry from his raging performances in the gangster films, Godfather and Scarface, Al Pacino delivers an equally superb display in crime thriller, Sea of Love.

Despite receiving critical acclaim from film hacks, alongside, Ellen Barkin (The Big Easy) and John Goodman (The Runner, Bee Movie), the New York born actor replicates his exquisitely efficient Academy Award winning portrayal of a retired army colonel in Scent of A Woman in 1992, with his role as a veteran police detective here.

Whether it be as Michael Corleone in The Godfather or Tony Montana in Scarface, Pacino has a knack of producing when it matters.

Whilst the Devil’s Advocate reminded audiences of his capabilities to intertwine pure evil with a loveable rogue charm, Sea of Love returned Pacino back to glory in 1989 after what had been a stuttering career patch beforehand.

But it is not just Pacino’s deliverance of New York Police detective, Frank Keller, as a workaholic, intense cop living on the edge, but the plot and supporting cast help develop this encapsulating hit from director, Harold Becker.

Barkin’s ability to allure Keller with her beautifully enticing temptress-like charms, result in highly charged sex scenes and some feisty character interaction between the pair, whilst Goodman’s performance as Pacino’s detective mate, Sherman Touhey, allows for silky banter and portrayal of the quintessentially typical burger-munching, down to earth, straight talking American.

As for the plot, romance, crime and an air of bizarre formulate this film.

Keller and Touhey are on an epic hunt to track down a strange serial killer who kills their victims whilst forcing them to perform sexual acts. The investigation prompts the two cops to go undercover to help unravel the mystery, which involves Keller advertising in a lonely hearts section to attract the killer (who preys upon his victims through this method) to him.

After some unsuccessful wooing attempts of potential candidates, Keller eventually stumbles upon Helen Cruger (Ellen Barkin) and the two engage in a passionate relationship filled with lustful romance and a desire to persist in the risky affair.

Initially in the affair Keller hides his real identity as a cop from Cruger and when she inadvertently discovers his identity, smooth-talking from Keller helps keep the two together.

However, all the time Keller is intent on finding the truth about whether Cruger’s character is the serial killer causing outrageous destruction in New York and is horrified when despite becoming increasingly emotionally attached to Cruger, that overwhelming evidence links her to the killings.

Upon confronting her, the two initiate in verbal and physical warfare, only for Keller to realise that Cruger’s boyfriend has been behind the killings all along. The two duel in Cruger’s flat, with Keller the victor against Cruger’s murderous man, whilst Keller and Cruger finally consolidate their love and embark upon a relationship.

Although some may say the problem with this film was that it followed a typical formula of crime, romance and comedic one-liners from Pacino, its comparisons to a cheesy romantic comedy by Richard Curtis would be harsh. What the film lacks in consistent crime-fighting action, it responds with in the plot’s suspense and the dangerous liaisons between its two main characters.

As mentioned earlier, Sea of Love is credited for reviving Pacino’s acting career in the late 1980s after what had been a squalid decade. But it also enforces the truly mysterious human nature, not only to entice their victims in crazed murderous acts, but by developing a relationship which is active, passionate and feisty.

Morally, the dilemmas resound for Pacino’s Keller as he has to decide upon continuation of investigating the murder despite his lover’s involvement.

Though, perhaps the dilemma in this film not quite reaching the heights anticipated is through its tempo changes between detective work and romance.

But if you are after Godfather type scheming and moral pressures intertwined with Scent Of A Woman’s heartfelt passion, then this could be the film for you.


I attempt to review a film here - I just hope that people understand the plot and the general write-up. 

I have to ask, though, why did you give away the ending? Surely that's a cardinal sin in reviews? I guess the fact that it's been around nearly two decades lets you off the hook, though.

That film Scent of a Woman was great, I never saw the young guy in it anywhere else, though. Did you like The Big Easy? I randomly recorded it on VHS years ago and watch it every now and again. I think it's pretty good.

Thanks for doing a review, I've kind of half-heartedly blogged about films myself but haven't worked up to a decent appraisal of anything yet, I'm glad someone else likes writing about them.

At the risk of provoking a huge list: if that's 4 stars for you, what's five?

Die Hard 1 and Schindlers List are probably my only 5 star films.

John, sorry for taking an eternity to reply to your comment. Haha you're exactly right about the ending tbh, I'm not quite sure why I did that - I need to learn not to do such sloppy things. I'm glad you can look past that though and let me off haha :).

Yeah Scent of a Woman was a great film, very moralistic and I have the DVD as it so happens...worth a purchase if you haven't got it. Yeah, Chris O'Donnell - he hasn't been in many films and that was one of his major successes, though he did play a good role in Max Payne and was one of the better actors in the film - I can vouch for that! Yeah I thought the Big Easy was good thanks and like you thought it was pretty good. Not the best, but the plot had enough to keep me entertained.

Don't worry John, just have a crack at writing one and I'm sure you'll be fine with it. I mean this is only about the third I've ever written and I need to improve on it anyhow. Glad you like films and yeah I do too, as like you, I used to do acting/drama when I was at school and enjoy performing.

What's your favourite film/genre? Haha don't worry you won't get a huge list. 5 Stars - This Is Spinal Tap, Scent of a Woman, Philadelphia, A Time To Kill...I'd probably go for any of those as a favourite of mine.

By the way, your Woolies article was very funny and a good read! :)

This is Spinal Tap absolutely awesome transcends stars.

As for favourites, I don't know. I love Amelie, The English Patient, Annie Hall, Pan's Labyrinth and I must confess a weakness for Studio Ghibli films.

Of which I'd say Grave of the Fireflies is probably my favourite, though I can't watch it without getting really upset so Spirited Away gets an honourable mention from me.

I've owned three copies of Amelie, one of which I thought I'd lost and ended up being hidden for what turned out to be over a year in my girlfriends bedroom. She'd got me a replacement copy for Christmas and, when someone brought mine back into school, she took and hid it.

Funnily enough, I don't know where that copy is now...

Film review - Sea of Love