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Mission: Impossible 2

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Mission: Impossible 2

Starring: Tom Cruise, Anthony Hopkins
Director: John Woo
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 126 Minutes
Release Date: May 2000
Genres: Action, Suspense

*Also starring: Thandie Newton, Brendan Gleeson, Rade Serbedzija, Dominic Purcell, Dougray Scott, William R. Mapother, John Polson, Ving Rhames

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

The United States may be the world's only superpower but this country is hardly invulnerable to the machinations of rogue states. Even discounting a change of plans from the leadership in Russia (who still fester about being second best and surrounded by East Europeans wild about NATO), the rogue states like Iraq, Iran and Libya may have their strategies. Those approaches center on non-nuclear terrorism such as chemical and biological warfare. Amazingly enough, deadly bugs have not been unleashed against the West, at least not to its knowledge, but that real possibility gives "Mission: Impossible 2" its one and perhaps only foundation for grounding and credibility. "M:I-2" is not a roller coaster ride but it sure is a excursion on motorcycles and choppers and for fancy cars that have been made just for the pleasure of blowing them sky-high. A John Woo ("Face/Off," "Hard Boiled," "The Young Dragons") picture, "M:I-2" will probably be as popular in the 54-year-old director's native Guangzhou as it is here in the West because, after all, who can resist a video game that surrounds its audience while bathing us in a torrent of sound from waves crashing against the shore at Sydney harbor to Hitchcockian birds flapping their wings to warn the villains of the approach of the good guy to the ever-present rat-tat-tat of machine guns that never come close to disabling the superstar?

Made in the James Bond style without the promiscuous womanizing or the bevy of locations, "Mission: Impossible 2" is filmed principally in the lovely city of Sydney, Australia with an opening scene from Moab, Utah and an L.A. set design resembling the arches and caves of Seville, Spain. The convoluted plot, which borrows a theme from Terry Gilliam's "Twelve Monkeys," revolves around a scheme to infect Sydney's three million people with the deadly Chimera virus for starters, then to sell the antidote to those who have not yet developed the fatal symptoms of the disease twenty hours later. As special agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his buddies Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Billy Baird (John Polson) hone in on those hoping to use drug company options to become richer than Bill Gates, they use Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton) the former girl friend of villainous Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) to help in their thankless efforts to save all the people downunder.

Action-adventure films are difficult to evaluate because on the one hand they may keep the audience on the edge of their seats in spite of themselves (as this one does), but on the other hand they are loaded with implausibilities (which is OK), with same ol' same ol' formula (which is not), and with that flagrant Ebertian flaw of the scoundrel's getting the jump on the protagonist (at least twice) and failing to snuff him because he's more interested in talking than in shooting (an annoying flaw).

In balance, "M:I-2" is a disappointing foray, a generic piece of very expensive filmmaking that lacks the James Bond wit and eclat while at the same time highlights a romance that is as sexless as it is inconceivable.

Ethan Hunt got his name because he is the sort of guy who must be unhappy when he is not working at hunting criminals. To emulate the chase, he risks his life on vacation by climbing Moab, Utah's colorful red rocks. Interrupted by his Impossible Missions Force boss (in an unbilled cameo by Anthony Hopkins), he is instructed to track down the evil Scotsman, Sean Ambrose, who is concocting a plan to give millions of people a bad, bad cold. After tracking down Ambrose's ex girl to involve her in the scheme, he faces off against the criminals in more ways than one, principally by the nifty use of rubber masks that have us thinking, "Will the real Tom Cruise take it off and stand up?" There is more than a single leader with evil intents in this drug scheme that involves the CEO of a pharmaceutical company (played by Brendan Gleeson who was a helluva lot better in John Boorman's "The General"), and that the bad guys still tip off the heroes by affixing flashing counters on their explosive devices.

Dougray Scott makes the most of a role that seems made instead for fellow-Scotsman Robert Carlyle, a fun-loving guy when he's with his main squeeze at the racetrack but not at all pleased when faced with his competitor for the gal and the virus gun as well. Cruise and Newton try to make like Pierce Brosnan and Sophie Marceau but neither has the needed panache for the romantic bits and in fact the adorable Thandie Newton looks more like someone who's cutting classes at UCLA Berkeley than a sophisticated jewel thief who can pick a lock in seconds with a couple of sharp instruments.

The flamenco scenes are the best part of this escapist excursion but we are privy to just enough foot stomping to tease us and encourage us to travel to Spain rather than Australia when school's out.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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