Film Commentary [6-1-00]
Tomboy Kung Fu - - Mission: Impossible II
Genre: Action
Grade = B+



This summer's third entry into the big budget action genre is the sequel to the 1996 hit. The film enters with Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt on a testosterone building freestyle rock climb up the red rock cliffs of Utah. You get breathtakingly perilous scenes of ole' Tomboy hanging by his fingertips with shots of his muscular bod for all the ladies and gays to fantasize over while masturbating during the next few evenings. After the initial action, he gets THE MESSAGE (You're mission, should you choose to accept it....these sunglasses will self destruct in five seconds).

Hunt is assigned to track down former IMF agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) who has stolen a virulent biologically engineered virus called Chimera and its antidote and now is selling it to the highest bidder to get filthy rich with stock options. Hunt recruits Ambrose's former lover and sexy high tech thief Nyah Hall (Thandie Newton) to infiltrate his organization for intelligence to locate the bug. And so the story goes (what story there actually is).

This is a far cry from the old TV series where the Mission: Impossible team spends the majority of the show intricately setting up the villain and then ensnaring him to his doom in the end. Well, forget about all that. This is a pure action movie - motorcycle chases, shoot-em-ups and kung fu fight scenes. The team is gone. Now there is an thin two man support operation that doesn't particularly do anything exciting but talk to Ethan on cell phones and ride around in a helicopter to get shot at ineffectually.

Not that all this makes for a bad film. I judge films within their own genre not against Citizen Kane like most ‘critics' do. This is an action film and it delivers what you want. Cool chases, gunfights and martial arts fight scenes. None that pesky intellectual drivel like plot, dialog and character development to get in the way. Tomboy just starts kicking ass and continues to do some serious ass kickin' through the entire last two-thirds of the movie. Die nameless villain henchman-lackey working as a security guard, die. And die they do. They might as well be wearing a red uniform in the old Star Trek series as Tomboy cuts his way through the opposition.

This film is directed by John Woo (a Sam Pekinpaw wannabe). Now, I have had serious problems with this former Hong Kong director in the past. His action scenes have a mild (mild in the term supernova) tendency to go to ridiculous extremes of unbelievable and ludicrous nonsense. Like the opening scene in Hard Boiled where all the patrons (i.e, thirty-five) in the canary tea shop dies in a fifteen minute shootout and then the cops show up. However, this time he actually manages to restrain himself to the merely improbable. Like Tomboy conjuring up face masks of henchmen just when they are needed, leaping off speeding motorcycles, henchmen managing to miss hitting Tomboy with every shot. The special effects and stunts are spectacular fun and much better than Gladiator.

A pleasant surprise is Anthony Hopkins as Tomboy's new IMF handler, who serves as an anchor for the film. Despite the hokey plot and dialog, I actually enjoyed this movie enough to recommend for those who are capable of enjoying a film solely for action itself (and that's most of you). If you want intellectual stimulation, go see....ah, there's not really anything out there to see right now so just go rent Run Lola Run (subtitled, if you rent it dubbed, you're a moron).

My one serious complaint is the lack of use of the Mission: Impossible theme. It actually doesn't show up very often. This theme music is one of the single greatest ever written (with James Bond and Hawaii Five-O) for TV or movies. It should have reverberated throughout the movie and it failed to do so. I missed it.


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