Sea of Love/B+,C+

Universal/1989/124m/ANA 1.85

         Sea of Love is Harold Becker's best film. The director of films ranging from the down and dirty ugly little drug film The Boost to the cop movie The Onion Field and most recently Mercury Rising, Becker seemed to find the right ingredients and control over Sea of Love. The director benefits from an outstanding screenplay from Richard Price. The characters are savvy, they have dialog that sounds like it was born on the New York streets, and above all, the seem to have a life beyond the small slice we see on the screen. The New York City locations are New York. The beat of the film, the sounds of the city, the lights, the rhythms are on target.

Barkin barks at Pacino. ŠUniversal

     The interesting challenge for Sea of Love is how to successfully move from a standard cop hunting a serial killer film to a romance and then to work it's way back to resolve the mystery. Most of the steps are reasonable and character motivations can be supported. The only time I really wonder about the veracity of the screenplay is when cop Frank Keller lets a loose tongue send a pale of cold water over his romance with sexy Helen. 
     Becker and price don't waste much time in cutting to the quick. The movie opens with a steamy murder. But before detective Frank Keller is brought on the scene to investigate, we learn a bit about his humanity and his life. Even the initial examination of a body by two detectives turns into more than standard fare as the dialog sparring reveals character. When Keller teams up with a Queens cop working a similar case, Sea of Love starts spinning at 45rpms. There are surprises, but not unjustified plot twists. The romantic stuff is hot, hot, hot.
     Al Pacino gives cop Frank Keller an edgy quality, adding a lot of spark to the film. Pacino is no stranger to the cop role, having done about four variations on the guy with the badge over the years. Back in 1989 Pacino did not look too old for his female co-star, a sex hungry Ellen Barkin. The sex scenes are steamy without making viewers feel voyeuristic. There's a genuine hunger generated by the actors. If anything, the sex advances the plot, and that says a lot about the quality of the screenplay and direction. John Goodman makes a great cop buddy for Pacino. Goodman's girth and humor alongside the slight and intense Pacino adds pounds to the picture. 
     Sea of Love is one of the unfortunate early DVD releases when Universal was on the fence about releasing all their films in original aspect ratio. It appears to be full frame, or close to it. Few of the scenes appear cramped or chopped. There is definitely too much noise in the picture from edge enhancement. There's jitter evident in the opening credits and through the early scenes and I am not really certain if my eyes just got used to it, but in the end it did not bother me very much. Discrete filtering might have alleviated some of the nasty Venetian blind scenes and finely detailed textured tend to be jumpy. The color is excellent. The night scenes are dynamic and the picture has plenty of contrast range. There are no soft scenes. The Dolby Digital 2 channel sound is in nice balance. Dialog and music are separated nciely and clearly recorded. In the end, the question of DVD quality to not enter into the enjoyment of this film. Not outstanding certainly, but the problems disappeared into the finely woven plot.











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