Al Pacino plays a New York cop (there's a surprise) who's trying to track
down a killer. There are three male victims, and they all placed similar ads in the personals.
In fact, only three men placed rhyming ads, and all three ended up dead,
while all the men who placed non-rhyming ads are unharmed. Pacino also has matching fingerprints at two of the crime scenes, but the
prints don't match anyone in the database, so the police are at an impasse.
Pacino and his partner (John Goodman) come up with a proactive plan: they
write their own rhyming ad and arrange to meet every woman who answers it.
They meet for a drink in a a public restaurant, get the woman's
fingerprints on a water or wine glass, and move on to the next woman, in
assembly line fashion.
Only one problem. Pacino is kind of a lonely guy himself, and has a
drinking problem. When he runs into one of the suspects on the street, he is
attracted to her and his judgment is impaired by his loneliness and a head
full of booze. The
fact that it's Ellen Barkin in skin-tight dresses seals the deal for him, so they
end up getting it on ... and on ... and on. The dramatic conflict is that
she is the one woman who never touched a glass, so Pacino never got her prints
and is unable to eliminate her as a suspect. A
concatenation of circumstances, fueled by alcohol-impaired judgment, leads Pacino to become more and more
convinced that she might be the killer, even as he becomes more and more
involved with her and hopes she isn't. He then hits the bottle even harder
than before, thus further clouding his judgment and accentuating his paranoia.
The film's strength lies in the cat-and-mouse game which the director
plays with the audience. There's a gun in her purse. Pacino sees it and
knows she must be the killer. He overpowers her. No,
wait. It's a starter pistol. Now Pacino has to explain to her why he just
went ballistic, and he has to do so as a guy in love with her, not as a cop.
He can't tell he the whole truth because she really might be the killer. Or she
may just be a nice woman whose life
is being screwed up by a guy telling her a bunch of half-truths. The couple
did get through the gun incident, but additional evidence points to her as
the film progresses, and the cycle
continues. Lather; rinse; repeat. Throughout the cycle, Pacino never knows
if and when she's going to kill him instead of kissing him, and the audience
never knows either. Finally it gets to the point where the evidence is overwhelming. Every
clue points to her. There are too many incriminating circumstances to be
just coincidences. She must be the killer ...
You'll have to watch the film to see how that gets resolved. I won't tell
you the ending, but I will say that the screenplay was reasonably deft. The explanation
does make perfect sense, even though I never thought of it as the film
Sea of Love is not a major movie, but is a solid little thriller with
deep character development. Pacino's cop is more than just a cardboard
cut-out. He's flawed; he's an ass; he's lonely; he's a drunk. The key point
is that he's somebody who is known to us. We can probably answer questions
about elements of his life than have not been specifically covered on
screen. That kind of character development allows the audience to think of
him as a member of the family, maybe a cousin who's a pretty decent guy but
needs to slack off the booze. We get deeper into the thrills because
we're into him.
Ellen Barkin? That girl may not be so beautiful and her face may be
crooked, but damn is she sexy!
Samuel L. Jackson? Don't watch the film hoping to see him. He has a
couple of lines in an early scene unrelated to the central plot. If you're
not looking for him you may miss him unless you pick up his distinctive
The DVD has some deleted scenes. Two of them are short and unimportant.
The remainder comprise a complete sub-plot which was wisely dropped. It
concerned a black kid who was fingered as an alternate suspect in the
killings. It was nothing more than a red herring, and not a very logical one
at that, so the director made the right move in cutting it.