When I popped Mission: Impossible 2 into my VCR, I had concerns that this ne plus ultra of big-screen movies wouldn’t play well on the tube. Actually, it plays better, and here’s why: You can turn the sound off and enjoy the thing for the blockbuster expressionist action painting it is.

Hong Kong director John Woo’s taste for hyperpoetic ultraviolence hasn’t always sat well with American moviegoers who crave balletic shoot-outs only if they’re propped up by fusty notions of believability. True to form, M:I-2 embraces absurdity from its cliff-hanging opener on, but it’s more honestly dumb — and, therefore, much more fun — than Brian De Palma’s 1996 Mission: Impossible. The Woo-ized sequel piles one set piece atop another like a wobbly stack of casino chips: Special agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) courts swank thief Nyah Hall (Thandie Newton) in a two-car tango; a vertiginous gun battle erupts in a secret lab; a climactic kickboxing duel goes on so long it becomes an abstract study in flow mechanics. Trust me, the piddly plot — about the race to keep a superbaddie (Dougray Scott) from unleashing a deadly virus — means nothing. Click off the sound and appreciate M:I-2 for what it is: pure kinesis. B+

Mission: Impossible 2

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 125 minutes
  • John Woo