Mission Impossible 2 (2000)

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2 is a misfire.  Of course, so was the amusing-
ly ludicrous first film.  This long-overdue sequel, however, isn't 
even *fun* to watch.  Choose your blurb:  deadly serious | aston-
ishingly unexciting | makes EYES WIDE SHUT look damn good in retro-
spect.  John Woo directs this time instead of Brian DePalma and you 
know what that means.  Lots of operatic slow-motion.  And birds.  
And heroes holding *two* handguns instead of one.  (Action junkies 
be forewarned:  the first rounds aren't fired for over an hour!)  
The plot involves the search for a deadly virus, plus the antidote 
to said super-flu, one or both of which the Aussie-based bad guys 
may have.  Mate.  Also in the mix is a sexy female jewel thief 
(Thandie Newton) who captures Mr. Hunt's heart before being sent to 
Trojan Horse around with Dougray Scott's old boyfriend-turned-vill-
ain.  [ Insert comical footage of Tom Cruise fuming ]  Oh, and the 
aforementioned antagonist is also an turncoat IMF'er.

Admittedly, it's absolutely fine premise.  Hell, legendary scribe 
Robert Towne even wrote the script!  The problem is that everything   
is played way, way, *way* too seriously.  No levity.  No playful-
ness.  And maybe fifteen minutes of comic relief.  Tops.  Total.  
For the entire film.  On the physical sciences front, there's zero 
chemistry to report between Tom and Thandie.  (She shimmers during 
the mushy moments; he just looks silly.)  Nor are the guys who play 
the bad guys notably imposing.  (Let's just say that Mike Myers' 
Dr. Evil radiates more menace than Dougray Scott ever does.)  What 
else?  Well, the number of action sequences are fewer and far-be-
tweener.  (The first hour is mostly talk.)  Even worse than *that*  
is the obvious lack of high-tech gadgetry.  Instead of enough stuff 
swiped from James Bond's arsenal, the characters make do with such 
straight-out-of-the-television-series tricks as sleeping gas, latex 
masks, and even a passed note!  "Ms. Newton, would care to share 
that with the rest of the class?"

With its engine firing on so few cylinders, the greatest challenge 
for the MI2 viewer is not to giggle.  Don't laugh during the love 
scene when Cruise says, straight-faced to Thandie, "Damn you're 
beautiful."  Go with the flow with the incredulous cliff-hanging 
opening, as well as with the MATRIX-style kung-fu flips that you 
know full well were accomplished with wires, mattes, or stunt doub-
les.  (Keanu Reeves, believable; Tom Cruise, not.)  And be grateful 
for the familiar faces in the supporting cast, infrequently appear-
ing as they are.  Like Brendan Gleeson (LAKE PLACID, I WENT DOWN) 
as a shady pharmacological industrialist.  Or Hannibal Lecter him-
self, Anthony Hopkins, unbilled and looking curiously tired as 
Cruise's character's boss.  Or Ving Rhames, back from the first 
film and stuck in the back of a van, playing with a laptop for most 
of the movie. 

Don't walk out, though-- like I'm one to talk-- as the film finally 
comes alive in the last thirty-or-so minutes.  Sure, some of it is 
just plain silly.  Like the latex mask-fest.  (Does Cruise carry a  
Bat Mask Maker in his utility belt??)  Or the thousands of bullets 
that don't even *graze* him.  Or the hilarious inability of his 
airborne support team to simply fire their rifles.  Everything else 
is classic, over-the-top-and-then-some Woo-ing:  dueling motorcy-
cles, vehicular ballet, and a slow-mo mano-a-mano in the sand.  
Nope, still doesn't make much sense-- Cruise taking his time bat-
tering the bad guy, despite the timer counting down-- but at least 
it's diverting.  Mercifully diverting.  And for every unintention-
ally cheesy moment-- like the suspiciously WWF-looking body slams-- 
there's a gleeful moment of expertly-staged mayhem.  (See: knife, 
eyeball, quarter-inch.)  Come on, let's be honest:  compared with a 
certain John Travolta-starring suck-fest, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2 is 
far from a total turkey.  And this is one master-baster who knows 
how to call fowl!  Lower your expectations and it plays like a 
talky, too-serious, and under-actioned spy movie.  Expect anything 
*more*  and you take your enjoyment into your own hands.  (Rated
"PG-13"/127 min.)

Grade: C

Copyright 2000 Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies as MOVIE HELL: Mission Barely Passable

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros