Film Review: Mission: Impossible II (2000)

Also known as: M:I-2 (alternative title), Mission: Impossible 2 (alternative spelling)
Release Date: May 18th, 2000 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: John Woo
Written by: Robert Towne, Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga
Based on: Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Richard Roxburgh, John Polson, Brendan Gleeson, Rade Serbedzija, Ving Rhames, Dominic Purcell, Anthony Hopkins (uncredited)

Cruise/Wagner Productions, Munich Film Partners & Company, MI2 Productions Paramount Pictures, 123 Minutes, 195 Minutes (original cut)

Review:

“[briefing his men] If you look at Hunt’s operational history, and I have, you’ll notice that he invariably favors misdirection over confrontation.” – Sean Ambrose

While I wasn’t a big fan of the first movie in this franchise, I have a much better opinion of it now. This film, however, is where I jumped off because it was terrible on just about every level. But recently I thought, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this one will seem better to me now, all these years later, as it’s predecessor did.

Nope. This is still shit. And even though I haven’t seen a Mission: Impossible movie after this one, it’s hard to imagine the well-received sequels that followed being as bad or worse than this. Luckily, this one is checked off the list and I can move on from it.

But for now, I guess I still have to review it.

Tom Cruise is fine in this. In fact, he’s about the only thing that’s fine in it. I mean, I liked Anthony Hopkins, but he’s barely in it and Thandie Newton was okay but even with some talent in this picture, it isn’t all that well acted or treated like a movie worthy of anyone’s time or effort.

The plot is pretty fucking boring and derivative as hell. Honestly, this plays like a mediocre Pierce Brosnan era James Bond film and then just slightly worse. Granted, it isn’t as bad as Die Another Die, which just went to an absurd level of crazy. This is almost that bad, though.

The action is goofy and implausible, even more so than the first Mission: Impossible, which nearly jumped the shark a few times.

Additionally, this film was expensive but somehow it looks like a mid-’90s action movie with a moderate budget. While I like John Woo, generally speaking, this tapped into his frugalness too much. It felt like it was well beneath Face/Off, which came out three years prior. Yet, this film had a budget of $125M where Face/Off‘s budget was $80M.

Everything comes to a head in the shitty motorcycle chase finale that defies physics to the point where it broke my brain. I don’t care about it being directed by a Hong Kong action director, the regular Joe in the theater has no idea what that should entail and frankly, it’s not a style that works for this franchise, which is probably why it was abandoned after this movie.

M:I-2 is honestly just a stinky fart in the wind. Luckily, it didn’t completely derail the franchise and we got sequels, that I’ve been led to believe, are far superior to this one. I’ll probably start checking those out soon.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Mission: Impossible films, the Pierce Brosnan James Bond era, the Bourne film series and the Kingsman movies.

Film Review: The Killer (1989)

Release Date: July 6th, 1989 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: John Woo
Written by: John Woo
Music by: Lowell Lo
Cast: Chow Yun-fat, Danny Lee, Sally Yeh, Chu Kong, Kenneth Tsang, Shing Fui-On

Film Workshop, 110 Minutes

the-killer-1989Review:

I have been taking an online course in Hing Kong cinema. So of course John Woo would have to be a subject within the course. There are several of his films that are recommended for the section on him but I decided to watch The Killer. It is a film that I have heard a great deal of praise for, over the years. Also, I have seen a dozen or so of his movies but still hadn’t gotten my hands on this one. So I felt the need to rectify that.

The film stars long-time Woo collaborator Chow Yun-fat. He plays Ah Jong, a Triad assassin for fire. Philosophically, he only wants to kill bad men but that ideal is challenged throughout his career and when we meet him, he is a very conflicted man.

His internal battle is then compounded by his accidental injuring of a singer during a shootout in a restaurant. The woman is blinded and he feels tremendous guilt. He then shadows her, as a sort of protector, one night saving her from a couple of rapists. They develop a friendship but Ah Jong doesn’t reveal who he is. He then takes one final job. With the earnings of his final hit, he plans to pay for the woman’s surgery that can hopefully bring back her eyesight.

The mission is a setup however, and we end up seeing the conflicted hitman have to deal with the mess that is his life. Also being chased by a very vigilant cop, Ah Jong must put things right and find peace for his soul. The film climaxes with an awe-inspiring shootout at a church between Ah Jong, the cop and a massive gang of Triad killers.

The Killer, having just seen it once, has become my favorite John Woo movie up to this point. It has a heavy, philosophical plot and while the picture features an immense amount of violence, it also has a hefty helping of tenderness. The film finds itself in conflict, similar to what Ah Jong is going through. Woo perfectly embodies both aspects of this conflict visually and narratively.

Chow Yun-fat and Danny Lee also have the sort of chemistry that you don’t see in these types of films very often. While they have a natural rivalry with one being a criminal and one being a cop, there is a strong buddy connection. The way that connection plays out and evolves throughout the picture is fantastic. Two men from two different walks of life are able to unify, both blurring their own lines for the greater good.

I loved this film and it really made me want to watch more of John Woo’s older Hong Kong work.

Rating: 9/10