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Mission: Impossible 2
|     review by LunaSea     |     review by Kozo     |
"That reporter's following me again!"

Tom Cruise deals with a pesky fan in Mission: Impossible 2.
  Year: 2000    
  Director: John Woo
  Cast: Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Ving Rhames, Anthony Hopkins  
The Skinny: Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to watch Mission: Impossible 2 for more than 15 minutes without throwing your furniture at the screen. Unfortunately, the film won't auto-destruct after 5 seconds.....  
by LunaSea:

The formula of high octane action that brought John Woo to fame seemed a perfect starting point for the director in Hollywood. To cement his legacy amongst his old fans, and introduce new people to the excitement HK Cinema can generate. When Woo escaped a Hong Kong that was increasingly more uncertain - economically, politically and creatively - many people felt that this was the stepping stone the industry needed to jump into stardom. Almost ten years later, after seeing the trailer of Windtalkers and reflecting upon his 2000 hit starring Tom Cruise, it's probably time to reconsider all that optimism.

Asian actors are still misused and Asian movies still get butchered and badly released (or not released at all) with the usual display of cultural colonialism by Hollywood and its yesmen. At the theater, subtitled films are still perceived as the equivalent of "evil," and the average fan knows very little about our beloved HK film industry. If The Killer was Woo's green card to Hollywood, M:I 2 is the proof of his transition, and the change in style working in Hollywood. In the words of the Borg Queen: "You've been assimilated."

It's not only because this is a really bad movie. Hard Target and Broken Arrow were probably worse, but it's the way this whole big budget project turned out. At the end, this film is more Tom Cruise's masturbatory session #1 (with more coming) than a John Woo film. Everything is done to elevate Cruise as the next action star, from the ridiculous abilities he showcases (including: beating Manolo Sanchez at his own free climbing game, using motorbikes with such ease they seem toys, exhibiting kung-fu skills that would make Bruce Lee roll in his grave and, of course, the ability to make women fall deeply in love with him for no discernible reason), to the way Woo tries to intertwine his "style" in between the rest of the film. Basically it's forty minutes of The Tom Cruise Show, then Woo will peep in and do some of his tricks, then back to Cruise.

The plot centers once again around Ethan Hunt (Cruise), who in a couple of years passed from smart - yet insecure, and neurotic - young ace of IMF, to an agent that would make 007 shake in his boots. The only problem he really faces in this film is if the explosions will ruin his hairline. The baddies are more stereotypical than ever (even for the M:I series), and the femme fatale is a scared puppy who will do anything to avoid risking the life of - you guessed it - Ethan Hunt. As with every other Mission: Impossible (film or TV episode, old or new), the plot is full of contrivances, and is so convoluted that it's pointless to talk about it. Let's just say it involves a virus and its antidote, a struggle between money-hungry terrorists and a corrupt, powerful company. They could destroy the world if.....come on. You know all this already.

If you're looking for Woo's usual flair, you'll get something that seems more like a concession made by the producers (uh..someone like Tom Cruise maybe?), as long as the film pushed Cruise's image and shoved it down the viewers' throat. M:I 2 has no soul, it has no style, because it's just explosions thrown out there to fool Woo's old school fans, and make the new ones believe this is his way of making films. This film is just a two hour trailer for Tom Cruise's sunglasses and hair shampoo. Frankly, we can all live without that. (LunaSea 2002)

by Kozo:

I admit it: I actually had fun at Mission: Impossible 2. Not that it's really a good movie. It isn't, but for commercial Hollywood cinema it does its job with requisite style, flair and brainlessness. A made to order product for the teeming moviegoing masses, M:I 2 can hardly be faulted for its overbearing commercialism. No, if someone has to be faulted, then we should go direct to the source: John Woo.

Hard Boiled and The Killer are considered twin sacred cows of Hong Kong Cinema, which is why Woo's departure and subsequent lobotomized output is so distressing to many a HK Cinema fan. However, who lobotomized Woo? The studios played their part with their incessant meddling on the set of Hard Target, but Woo has been totally complicit in each and every compromise since. A self-avowed fan of Hollywood and even Tom Cruise, it was Woo's choice to go to Hollywood and make films the Hollywood way. At the time, his reasoning was fear: fear of the Handover and all its potential roadblocks, be they political, personal, or creative. Five years later, Woo could easily have gone back to Hong Kong to make "John Woo movies", but he chooses to stay.

And besides, has Woo even been lobotomized? That's hard to say, as his directorial career doesn't really fit the description of a master of cinema. Woo has a brilliant way with action, and his ability to mend pulp themes to the blood and bullets is nearly unparallelled. But when you distill all that, the result is still just a pulp movie, albeit an amazingly staged one like Hard Boiled or The Killer. His themes of brotherhood and their sometimes embarrassing hyper-emotion work well with the action genre, and his films never really aspire to much more. They're amazingly fun movies, which is sometimes more than enough.

With that in mind, Mission: Impossible 2 fits his filmography pretty well. It's just entertaining crap that has some measure of style and verve amidst all the standard genre clichés. There is a heavy dose of star worship courtesy of the Tom Cruise slow-motion parade, but that should only be a deterrent if one simply hates Tom Cruise. All the slow-motion and hyper-romantic touches look embarrassing on Cruise, but would they really look good on any American actor? Even Chow Yun-Fat's slow-motion antics have received titters of derision from mainstream US audiences. There are many people who hate Hard Boiled but simply love Mission: Impossible 2. That's because M:I 2 was designed specifically for them, and John Woo and Tom Cruise pretty much knew that. Heck, it was Woo's idea for Cruise to grow out his hair, thus lending it greater flow for the slow-motion excess. Woo got what he wanted - and a huge check to boot.

The film works best as a overdone parody of all of John Woo's pet cinematic tricks, which is pretty much all we could expect it to be. It doesn't measure up to Hard Boiled and The Killer, but how could it? As much as those films showed technical and cinematic prowess, they also channeled the desperate style of filmmaking that John Woo chose to escape. He did, and now we get ultra-polished, big-budget elephants that look good, sound good, and make lots of money. Woo's Hong Kong days are gone, and they're never coming back. We should just be glad that we can still throw in a DVD and relive the movies that made us like him in the first place. In the end, the sacred cows are John Woo's best films and not the man himself.

So about M:I 2, here's the scoop: Like other Hollywood action films, its got guns, explosions, big locations and barely a semblance of originality. Like John Woo's films, its got doves, slow-motion, nifty action sequences and unrealized female characters. Like Tom Cruise's films, it has Tom Cruise's grinning mug, which you can take or leave depending on your preference. Take all that, add 100 million dollars and you get a product that at least manages to have some fun with itself. It's crap, but it's entertaining, agreeable crap that passes the time in an undemanding fashion. And it made John Woo insanely rich. Should we really knock the guy for that? Consider it back pay for Hard Boiled. (Kozo 2002)

Availability: DVD (USA)
Region 1 NTSC
Paramount Home Video
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
English Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1

image courtesy of Paramount Home Video Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen