Pacino Goes Barkin for Ellen
Whilst "Basic Instinct" maybe one of the best known erotic cop thrillers it by no means wasn't the first, erotic cop thrillers had been around for a while and a few years before we had Michael Douglas falling getting it on with Sharon Stone we had Al Pacino falling for Ellen Barkin in "Sea of Love". Now whilst "Basic Instinct" is notorious for its erotic nature "Sea of Love" whilst still being erotic doesn't quite match up to it, oh there is nudity and sex scenes but it is tame in comparison. But then "Sea of Love" has the better storyline as we watch Det. Frank Keller falling for Helen Cruger despite everything pointing to her being a serial killer. And "Sea of Love" has more humour as well, not humour which spoils the drama but some great fun moments especially those which see Al Pacino and John Goodman going undercover and dating a series of women.
After a series of men are found murdered in their beds Det. Keller (Al Pacino - Two for the Money) and Det. Sherman (John Goodman - Confessions of a Shopaholic) discover that there is a link between these men and that is they all placed lonely hearts ads in a magazine. Deciding that to trap the killer they must do the same they end up going on a series of dates and it is whilst going undercover that Keller meets and falls for the sexy Helen Cruger (Ellen Barkin - Ocean's Thirteen). The only trouble is that she is a suspect and the more in love Keller becomes the more concerned he is that he could be sharing his bed with a serial killer just biding her time for the right moment.
The actual basic storyline to "Sea of Love" is not that special, in fact it is almost routine as we have a series of murders which are all linked to together by the victims having placed ads in lonely hearts listings. And as such watching Det. Keller and Det. Sherman try and solve who the serial killer is by placing their own lonely hearts ad is not that good. But it does one thing and that is introduce a touch of amusement through having Pacino and Goodman paired up through to the humour of the series of dates as one acts as a waiter whilst the other as a lonely heart. In fact even before that we get a lot more amusement be it a sting to arrest numerous criminals at a "Have Breakfast with the Yankees" event or the fact that Keller drunk calls his ex wife who happens to be with another detective from his precinct. It's all these little amusing things which helps make "Sea of Love" entertaining.
But it is also the fact that the longer "Sea of Love" goes on the more you begin to question who the serial killer could be. Of course as we watch Keller fall for the attractive Helen Cruger and end up in a physical relationship everything points to her but at the same time doubts creep into your mind. You wonder whether it could be the first woman who Keller has dinner with, who is bitter when he doesn't call, or maybe it is the one who Det. Sherman takes back to his place, maybe it's Sherman himself or even Kruger's mother who is not impressed by Keller. It's because of this level of doubt it gives you that whilst there is someone who is very obvious you don't immediately think of them.
On top of this "Sea of Love" has a trio of enjoyable performances which aid it in being entertaining. Whilst his previous few movies hadn't been that great Pacino's return to acting as Det. Keller is good and he infuses his character with that fast talking, quick thinker which we saw a few years earlier in "Scarface". But he also plays on his flaws, his loneliness and need of a drink. It works well with Ellen Barkin who is both sexy and mysterious making their romantic trysts both erotic and dangerous because you are always wondering whether it will end with her pointing a gun at Keller. And then adding some mild amusement is John Goodman as Sherman who maybe your basic cop buddy character but his energy and comic timing adds something different to what is your typical erotic cop thriller.
What this all boils down to is that "Sea of Love" is an entertaining 80s erotic cop thriller. It's by no means the best example of this genre but it does entertain and keeps you guessing as to whether or not Det. Keller is in bed with a killer.