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"M:I-2" (Mission Impossible 2)

Directed by John Woo.
Written by Robert Towne ("Chinatown").  VAGUELY based on the television show "Mission: Impossible." 
Starring Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Thandie Newton and Dougray Scott.
Release Year:  2000 
Review Date:  5/24/00 


This morning, I had to go back to my favorite dentist because I had filling work to take care of.  As I have mentioned before, my dentist keeps a full stock of videos for his patients to watch while the fresh smell of burning ivory fills up the room.  I watched the first half-hour of "The World is Not Enough," last year's worse-than-bad Bond flick that featured some of the worst Bond lines and bit...uhh, women ever:  Christmas Jones, played without any talent by Denise Richards (hot, but couldn't even spell acting).  One thing that can't be faulted, though, is the opening sequence, which has Bond flipping around in that state-of-the-art speedboat around the Thames River and then through downtown London.  It made me think about the speedboat sequence in "Face/Off," one of the best aquatic action sequences ever.

Transition:  speedboats.  John Woo, my favorite director and one of the major influences of American cinema over the last 15 years, is a huge speedboat fan.  Almost all of his movies have a speedboat sequence of some sort, and "Face/Off"--his last big American action movie--features the best one.  But, Woo--who made most of his movies in Hong Kong including "The Killer" and "Hard-Boiled"--is more noted for his slow-motion sequences and his usage of (ahh, irony) American cowboy-style two-fisted gun-carrying heroes...and, both are in excess in his latest film, "Mission: Impossible 2."  It is important to note Mr. Woo for a couple of reasons:  after watching "Face/Off," Tom Cruise gave Woo a call and asked him to direct "M:I-2" because he wanted to use a similar style to “Face/Off” for his upcoming sequel.  And, Cruise wanted to change up the traditional "Mission: Impossible" image from spy flick to an all-out action film.

Like the trailer for "Gladiator," "M:I-2" leaves a lot out of its preview so that you have almost no idea what the movie is about before you get to the theater...besides, of course, the fact that a lot of shit blows up.  Dave "Bro" Bell and I took in the flick this morning between dental and doctor appointments (what better way to spend a sick day?).  The plotline of "M:I-2" is its strongest asset, as it is worlds better than the ridiculous plot of the first movie and it doesn't have a stupid ending, where Cruise is hanging off the back of a bullet train.  In the sequel, IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is given a mission called Chimera by his new boss (Anthony Hopkins, essentially in a cameo) that requires him to recruit a master thief (Thandie Newton) to lure an ex-IMF agent into giving up the location of a horrible manufactured virus before the ex-agent can spread the virus--and, profit from the required antidote--across Australia, and eventually, the world.  But, the ex-agent, Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott), is smarter than your average bad guy, and he knows enough about Hunt to make their rivalry very interesting.

It is important to note that, again, this is a John Woo film...because, "M:I-2" is as far from the TV series as could be imagined.  Everything from the music to the action to the ridiculous number of stunts to the setup--one-man army Ethan Hunt takes on bad guys--is very, very different from the old-school TV series.  Purists (are there any left?) should avoid this movie if they are looking for a spy movie.  However, action fans rejoice!  The first half of the movie features a lot of the white-hot Thandie Newton, who left Dave and I wondering what her ethnicity was (suggestions welcome).  Plus, there is a lot of Cruise just looking cool rock-climbing, driving, walking in slow-motion, whatever.  The story is very interesting and not too difficult to keep up with.  There are also a lot of the "Hey, I'm not really blank, I'm...blank!"-style mask removals that were featured in the first movie.  I enjoyed that, but it isn't for everyone.

About halfway into the middle of the movie, Ethan-Hunt-superspy turns into Ethan-Hunt-asskicker.  The change is pretty clear, because at this point, Tom Cruise is firing Glocks at almost every turn and although the first movie featured exactly no shots fired (by the good guys, anyway), this movie eclipses that early on and turns into a John Woo action movie around the time that agent Hunt has to enter a viral laboratory in Sydney.  From this point forward, the action is hot and features all manner of human death and vehicular destruction, and I must make mention of the stuntwork that Cruise--all-American movie star--is obviously performing himself (John Woo hates stunt doubles because he knows how much audiences hate them...not to mention the cost of using them in a film).  You won't mistake Tom Cruise for Jet Li after watching this movie, but it is refreshing to see Cruise go from serving drinks in "Cocktail" to throwing axe kicks with surprising accuracy.

So, the good is that John Woo stays true to John Woo.  The bad?  There isn't enough Ving Rhames, as one of Ethan's sidekicks, but that was true of the last movie.  The cavalier attitude of a "spy" like Cruise's character brings to mind the problem with someone like James Bond in the last couple of Bond movies--for someone that relies on keeping out of sight, Ethan Hunt does border on unbelievable, in the sense that he is driving motorcycles firing Berettas through the streets of Sydney.  Don't these guys keep out of sight?  And, one of the biggest problems:  the BLATANT ripoff of one of the most identifiable lines of the last 20 years in this movie; when Cruise says the line (trust me, if you only watch a few movies a year, you'll know what movie it is from), you expect to hear some sort of cheesy music, to acknowledge that it is a joke or something...but, it never comes!!  The writers of this film actually stole a line from another film, as if they had just made the line up!!  Come on!!

Otherwise, it was all good.  Scott is very good as the bad guy, Newton is a hottie for the future, the music is real loud and so is the gunfire.  And, there are a bunch of cool gadgets (during the "spy" portion of the movie, anyway) including a hot looking Motorola phone.  And, did I mention that a lot of shit blows up?

Rating:  $8.25 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09