Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)

Directed by John Woo
Written by Robert Towne, story by Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore
Starring Tom Cruise, Thandie Newton, Dougray Scott, Ving Rhames, Anthony Hopkins

My Advice: Wait for Cable.

Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is back, and for a good reason. He's just found out from the head of the IMF (Hopkins), that Something Very Bad known as the Chimera has been stolen. He's got to go enlist his old buddy Luther (Rhames) and new buddy/professional thief Nyah (Newton) to go get the goods back.

That's about all I can tell you without completely revealing the plot twists that go on in the film. To the film's credit, it uses a plausible central plot device and some nifty little mask-induced switches to be much better than its predecessor. But unfortunately, it's only slightly better. I was reminded of an incident from my days as a youth in the theatre. There were two directors who I admired when they worked solo--but one time they directed a show together and the whole thing just went to hell. I give you Mr. Woo and Mr. Cruise. They work well--just not well together it seems. This entire thing feels like a Woo movie wanting to happen: you've got the slow motion, you've got snatches of cool cinematography, you've got guns flipping about like mad. You've even got a good thirty minutes of opening setup sequences that show promise. But then you've got a really badly executed romantic storyline that just seems contrived to hell and back (despite the efforts of Cruise and the very good Newton to save it). In fact, it feels like it was lifted out of a completely different (and completely incompatible) film. Because these two films are constantly fighting each other on the screen for dominance, they overshadow the real fight sequences we should be watching.

Cruise to his credit plays the action hero as well as can be expected and I didn't have a problem with his flipping around and up and all over. His moves actually were a lot better than the bad CGI-enhanced wire fu of, say, Jet Li in Romeo Must Die. Newton was sultry and doing the best she could with a character trapped in a badly-written romantic story arc. The real standout of the crew is Scott, who just reeks of opportunistic evil. John Polson plays the other IMF agent recruited, and he isn't given much to do but stand around and be Australian.

Normally, this would be the point at which I told the die hard Woo fans among you to go catch it at a matinee--but save your coin. It's not a Woo film. Not really. Any minute now, it'll stand up and pull off its mask and voice chip and be revealed for what it truly is: a rejected Bond script.

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