23 May 2010

Review: "Two If By Sea"

As a burgeoning cinephile in the 1990s it seemed that Sandra Bullock was in almost every single film. She was in Demolition Man (1993), Speed (1994), While You Were Sleeping (1995), The Net (1995), A Time to Kill (1996), Hope Floats (1998) and Practical Magic (1998). These were all decent films, but only Speed can be called a classic 90s film. Embarrassingly, one of my favourite Sandra Bullock films from that period was Two if by Sea, a 1996 film that was critically panned, with a 12% rating at RottenTomatoes. I decided to watch the film again to see if my tastes have matured or if Two if by Sea was poorly misjudged by critics en masse. The film was co-written by Denis Leary, who stars alongside Bullock, and directed by Australian director Bill Bennett. Bennett is probably unknown to international audiences as most of his films are small Australian projects. I did not have very high expectations heading into my second viewing, and while Two if by Sea starts out well it is unfortunately not as funny or as clever as I remembered.

Frank O'Brien (Denis Leary) is a petty thief whose last job is to steal a painting by Henri Matisse from a private collector. He was told the painting is worth $100 000 and he is set to receive $10 000 when he hands the painting over to an unnamed buyer at 5:00 PM on Sunday. He decided to surprise his girlfriend Roz (Sandra Bullock) and take her away for the weekend. Frank's smart idea was to steal the painting on Thursday and spend the weekend with her in a small Rhode Island town. Unfortunately things do not go as planned. After stealing the painting they are forced to steal a car and end up in a high speed police chase on the highway. Quick thinking leads them to get on a train, though more bad luck leads the police to stop their train and force them to hide out in a small town. They find a empty house belonging to a couple away in Chicago for the weekend and convince a neighbour, Evan (Stephen Dillane), that they are friends of the couples' son. Roz and Evan become quick friends and his sophistication leads Roz to question the future of her relationship with Frank. Meanwhile, an FBI agent O'Malley (Yaphet Kotto) believes that the art heist is related to a string of thefts in the 80s and becomes involved in the heist. Frank's luck turns for the worst when his boss Beano (Wayne Robson) and his incompetent associates help lead the police right to the exchange on Sunday afternoon.

While I still believe that Meryl Streep should have won the Academy Award over Sandra Bullock's performance in The Blind Side, I must concede that she has a certain charm that works on screen. Roz may not be the best character for her, but she does a decent job with the material. It is Denis Leary that seems out of place in this role. It is not hard to see him as an incompetent thief, but not in a romantic comedy. The screenplay is weak and the pacing is awkward. It is the kind of film that has a lack of focus from its director. I was incredibly unhappy with Yaphet Kotto, who displayed such a gross lack of talent in a scene requiring a certain amount of conviction that he did not muster. Sandra Bullock tried her best with weak material, but I think that she is performs better outside of the romantic comedy genre. She was great in Speed and showed great maturity as an actress in Crash. Two if by Sea may be one of her weaker films, but let's hope that her Academy Award lets her continue her career renaissance and make well-crafted films.

My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4.

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