Mission: Impossible 2

Tom Cruise stars again as Ethan Hunt, now with longer hair and a new found martial arts expertise. As the movie begins, Hunt’s out on a ballsy rock climbing vacation, which he must resume abruptly when he receives a message which will “self destruct in 5 seconds” from his superior (Sir Anthony Hopkins, in a small but delightful part), assigning him with a new mission. This time around, our brave super spy is out to stop ex-agent Sean Ambroise (Dougray Scott), a badass Aussie renegade who’s planning to steal both a deadly virus and its antidote in order to release a plague and then make a fortune selling its cure. In order to get to him, Hunt enlists the help of not only his old computer whiz buddy Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) but also Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton), a sexy professional thief who once had an affair with Ambroise. Yet things are a tad delicate, as Hunt and Hall soon have a love connection of their own…

“M:I-2” was written by Robert Towne. This time the mission isn’t as hard to follow as the previous, but it still boasts its share of silly spy movie nonsense, with clunky dialogue, extremely realistic and convenient rubber masks and mucho Bond-style set-ups. No brilliant screenplay here, but the romance between Cruise and Newton is engaging and the whole enterprise remains interesting throughout. The original film, as directed by Brian De Palma, was an effective if confused espionage thriller with some then startling set pieces that now pale in comparison to this new episode’s big action sequences.

Well, this is to be expected when you hire John Woo to direct! After making some of the best action flicks of all time in Hong Kong (“The Killer”, “Hard-Boiled”), Woo brought his graceful ballets of bullets and mayhem to Hollywood in kick ass movies like “Hard Target”, “Face/Off” and now “M:I-2”. The movie looks like a (hundred) million dollars, as Woo brings his characteristic use of slow motion, white doves, double handgun action and intense close-ups to the series. It takes a bit long for the movie to really get into gear, but once it takes off, we’re in for one wild ride! Woo brings his magic to a “friendly” car chase, a variation on the original’s B&E scene followed by a shoot-out and most memorably, an all-out, pure action last half hour packed with over the top fights, explosions, gunfights, chases and motorcycle duels! And through it all, Cruise surprises everyone by tuning into Chow Yun-Fat mode.

Of course, being a PG-13 studio film, “M:I-2” doesn’t have the three figure bodycount of Woo’s Hong Kong classics, and it lacks the quirkiness and humor that John Travolta and Nicolas Cage brought to “Face/Off”. Still, if you’re into movies that constantly make you grin like an idiot and mutter “Oh yeah!” over and over, you’ll be satisfied.