Where the action mechanics are concerned, Woo still has an alluring, sure-handed way with even the most stilted conventions of the genre. Given to sleek tracking shots and lingering comic book close-ups, he somehow keeps this charged fantasy realm free of the cynicism that most American directors take for granted. The going gets great in the film's final third, which delivers a multitude of gasp-inducing stunts, bullet-hailing shootouts, and gracefully brutal hand-to-hand (and, often, foot-to-face) melees. Still, Towne's script repeatedly betrays the director's nobler motives. When good guy sidekick Luther (Ving Rhames) takes a bullet from the head baddie, he pauses to exclaim, "That punk put a hole in my Versace!" Such postmodern asides belong in Tarantino's world, not this one.
Comparisons are plenty apt between M:I-2 and The Matrix, last year's enduring fave that ably channeled the big heart and high style of Hong Kong action with an unmistakably American sci-fi sensibility. In both cases, an arsenal of reality-bending gadgets and fanciful disguises make it alarmingly easy to dismiss their respective impossibilities. In The Matrix, however, Keanu and his costars stay true to a stoic wonderment that transcends booty calls and body counts from beginning to end. Cruise, meanwhile, rests on the notion that James Bond, Jet Li, and Jerry Maguire can be fused into a single hero, able to engage toothy pillow talk in one act and risk everything for true love and ultimate justice the next--a mission that discriminating action fans may not so readily choose to accept.
James Bond meets Jet Li and Jerry Maguire: Tom Cruise in M:I-2