Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mission: Impossible II

The Action Mutant…
knows why you want to hate him…ew, I feel dirty.

Mission: Impossible II

review by Joe Burrows

Quick, stream of consciousness Tom Cruise story: One night, I went to see Vanilla Sky at the $3.99 theater that was by my house (and has since been replaced by a furniture store). The film was winding its run down and I decided to take it in one evening. When I came out, my head was swimming and trying to figure out what I had just seen. Behind me, the majority of the exiting audience said many general movie audience things, such as “That wasn’t like a Tom Cruise movie at all”. I decided to go for a drive and ended up at a Rite Aid about 20 minutes away. After purchasing what looked like the prototypical stoner’s diet, I approached the counter and engaged in a conversation with the female cashier. I had mentioned the movie I just saw and tried to explain it but to little avail. The last line I could really muster was the cliché “Nothing was as it seemed”. She responded, “Like Andy Kaufman?” And then we chatted about Andy Kaufman for five minutes. She gave me her number…and I promptly lost it within a few days. I never saw her work there again. Hey, it may not have been a great story but it’s truer than aliens installing pods into people centuries ago as per some insane, Sci-Fi writer.

The Plot, as it was:
Cruise returns as super spy Ethan Hunt and he’s out to destroy a supply of genetically formed disease called “Chimera”. However, a band of terrorists lead by Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) wants the disease to infect the world and use for his own financial gain. Hunt has a love interest named Nyah (Thandie Newton) to help him but her undercover exploits with Ambrose get both of them into deadly trouble that might not be corrected in time.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
There are two types of sequels: ones that are crafted to be logical continuations in an ongoing series (and to make money) and those that are simply manufactured to be summer blockbusters…and to make money. Not only does M: I 2 fall into the latter category, it confirmed the legal castration of director John Woo. Word was he produced an initial 3 ½ hour cut (and though I agree that length’s a bit ostentatious & unneeded) but Paramount balked and got a two hour assembly line version with several shootout scenes cut and altered for a PG-13 rating. What the viewer’s left with is an empty cell of a thrill ride; lots of crazy, video game like action and little else. The first half sets up all of the action to come and is thankfully not the labyrinthine plotline that was the original M: I. However, it’s only half captivating, as there are only a few tense moments, an Anthony Hopkins cameo and some good chemistry with Cruise and Newton to keep viewers awake. The star does bring it in the fight scenes (which were admittedly sweet) and Cruise is his usual smirking, playboy self. Once the gun play starts, it looks just like trademark Woo…only with little to no blood or visceral impact to accompany it. They’re fun to watch but you just kind of glare at the mayhem and go “So?” Add in a series of “Oh, come on now!” moments (yes, I mean the motorcycle/tackle in mid air dealy) and nothing special story wise and all of the gorgeous locales, crazily hyped up stunts, songs by Metallica & Limp Bizkit and eye candy doesn’t amount to as much as it could have.

Body Count/Violence: 37. As I mentioned, all of the trademark Woo moves are on display: slo-mo gunplay, explosions, flips and doves left and right. Except only one or two instances of the gunfights are bloody and it’s not over the top even then. There are also plane, car and motorcycle crashes, some intense fights, grenade use, poisoning and some knife slashing.

Sexuality/Nudity: There’s a suggestive bathtub scene with Cruise and Newton and she’s in all kinds of cute outfits but there’s nothing shown. PG-13, people!

Language/Dialogue: Very mild at best. Nyah certainly does get called “bitch” a lot.

How bad was it?:
Some of the criticism seemed to depend on whether one liked the original M: I film or not. Those that didn’t appreciate the high concept plot of the first may have been refreshed by just seeing a straight out action romp, while the opposing set may have felt this was too dumbed down. Either way, this was another summer scorcher that was split with the critics.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Armed with a price tag of $125 million, Paramount Pictures released M: I 2 on 5/24/00 and had the biggest opening weekend of the year in earning $57.8 million. It stayed another weekend in the top spot and then stayed in the top 10 for a solid month. The end of its American run brought in a haul of $215.4 million, plus $331 million overseas (a total of $546.4 million). This would be the highest grossing film of the series, though not the most profitable (the first brought in $457.7 million worldwide off of an $80 million budget.).

Film: **1/2/*****
Entertainment value: ***1/2/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

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