Underrated Gem: Sea of Love (1989)

I do miss the old erotic thrillers which is a genre we simply don’t get anymore; movies like Basic Instinct, Indecent Proposal, Unfaithful and this movie Sea of Love starring Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin.

It had been a few years since I had watched it but it’s on Netflix so I thought I’d check it out again over the weekend.

Sea of Love tells the story of “troubled New York City detective Frank Keller (Al Pacino) that investigates a serial killer who finds victims using personal ads in a magazine and leaves the song “Sea of Love” playing at his crime scenes. With the help of his partner, Sherman Touhey (John Goodman), Frank concocts a plan to find the killer using his own personal ads. But when Frank falls for one of his chief suspects, Helen Cruger (Ellen Barkin), he struggles to reconcile his personal life and his professional duty.”

Setting the story in New York is perfect as it almost feels like a character itself; I love the whole sleazy atmosphere and the city hadn’t been cleaned up as much as it is now. It obviously still has crime but Time Square is much more tourist friendly now than back in the late 80’s/early 90’s when it still had porno booths and sex shows.

My main problem with this movie was as soon as I saw the cast list in the opening credits I knew straight away who the killer was but that’s only because I’ve watched a lot of films in my time.

Sea of Love has something sorely missing from today’s cinema – sexy saxophone music. That just isn’t a thing anymore and it upsets me. Mind you just anything sexy in movies today would be a switch from all the boring bland shit we get in theatres, but I digress.

Al Pacino is always great at looking disheveled and tired in his movies and Sea of Love is no different; his character Frank is flawed and far from a true blue hero. He is obsessive, calls his ex-wife late at night despite the fact she is now married to someone else, has severe trust issues and at one point he even locks Helen (Ellen Barkin) in a closet when he suspects she might be the killer. You know their relationship is a dangerous one but Helen seems to get off on the excitement and “animal attraction” of it all and Frank even says he feels like a teenager again because of her.

We the audience can guess pretty early on that Helen isn’t the real killer but there are some fun mind games throughout that keep us on our toes. Barkin has rarely been better and manages to be strong, attractive, in control and yet vulnerable at the same time and the scenes with Frank and Helen getting it on are steamy and feel strangely desperate and that is really what this movie is about; despite having a serial killer in it Sea of Love is at its core a love story.

The script is very entertaining too with some great banter between Pacino and John Goodman who plays a cop he has to work with to solve the case who is also not without his personal issues.

In terms of erotic 80’s/90’s thrillers I think Sea of Love is one of the better ones and I personally prefer it to Basic Instinct and being the old weirdo that I am I would love to see these kinds of movies again.