June 05, 2000 12:00 PM

Tom Cruise, Thandie Newton, Ving Rhames, Dougray Scott

Having traded hot glances across a dance floor in Seville and then sexual innuendo while stealing a costly necklace from a safe upstairs, master thief Newton and superspy Cruise finally get around to introductions. “What’s your name?” she demands.

It’s almost a disappointment when he fails to reply, “Bond. James Bond.”

That’s because Mission: Impossible 2, though more entertaining than the dreary M:I-1, desperately wants to be an 007 film. It has all the ingredients: a suave action hero (Cruise); a fetching heroine (Newton) of dubious reputation; a power-hungry villain (Scott); international intrigue; high-tech gadgetry and a plot too complicated for its own good. All of which adds up to a slick, facile piece of moviemaking boasting as much actual soul as a stale soda cracker.

Unlike the TV series, in which the MI members worked as a team, M:I-2 confirms that the movie series is all Cruise. Here, Cruise gets minor backup assistance from team members Rhames and John Polson, but he’s the go-to guy in every scene. His mission, should he choose to accept it (has anyone ever said, “No, thanks, I think I’ll just go play Parcheesi instead”?), is to save the world, starting in Australia, from Scott, a turncoat agent who has stolen the only vial of antidote to a killer virus. To get the goods on this scoundrel, Cruise must recruit Newton, who is Scott’s former gal pal, and then sweet-talk her into—shades of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious—returning to Scott’s bed.

It’s all woozily ridiculous, but director John Woo (Face/Off) brings his usual visual dazzle to the action scenes, particularly when Cruise and Scott make like jousting knights on motorcycles. Cruise, acting up a sweat, shows impressive new kick-boxing skills, while Newton (Beloved) and Scott (Ever After) actually manage to give their roles a welcome inch of depth. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Mission passable

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