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"Mission Impossible 2," "Shanghai Noon" and "Time Code"

Quick Flicks

!B! "Mission Impossible 2"!B! "Shanghai Noon"!B! "Time Code"

"Mission Impossible 2" — Get ready to be Woo-ed! Tom Cruise may be the movie's featured beefcake, but the real star of this action-adventure sequel is director John Woo. His trademark flourishes are everywhere, breathing life into Robert Towne's pedestrian script and fulfilling Cruise's dreams to look like a bona-fide action hero.

Anthony Hopkins does a cameo as Mr. Phelps' replacement, sending agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) on a mission to stop a terrorist (Dougray Scott) from releasing a deadly virus. To get close to the villain, Cruise recruits his target's ex-girlfriend and professional thief Nyah Hall (Thandie Newton). Sparks fly between the two, creating a sexy undercurrent to the unfolding action. But that action would be nothing without Woo's singular style, choreographing the scenes as if he were Balanchine.

"Shanghai Noon" — Kung Fu great Jackie Chan takes his trademark fish-out-of-water shtick to the Old West for his latest marriage of comedy and martial arts. And it works! Chan plays Chon Wang (say it fast and it sounds just like John Wayne), a Chinese Imperial Guard who comes to the New World to rescue the kidnapped Princess Pei-Pei (Lucy Liu). But being both a foreigner and a greenhorn, Chan's character needs help. Enter hapless outlaw Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson), a kind of blond forerunner to today's West Coast dude. As expected, Chan and his new buddy have to fight their way out of many a predicament. Off-beat and entertaining, "Shanghai Noon" is as likable as its star.

"Time Code" — As a film oddity, Mike ("Leaving Las Vegas") Figgis' split-screen, real-time storytelling is fascinating. But once the novelty wears off, you're stuck with a plot that lacks credibility and with actors (Jeanne Tripplehorn, Salma Hayek, Stellan Skarsgaard and Saffron Burrows to name a few) who are ill-suited to unedited scenes.

Shot in 93 minutes on November 19, 1999, "Time Code" is Figgis' stab at Danish director Lars Von Trier's cockeyed Dogma '95 style of pared-down, supposedly "pure" filmmaking. All about betrayal, love and lust within the movie industry, the action runs simultaneously in four separate images on the screen. Characters move in and out of the four settings as the improvised stories are interwoven. But once you "get" the gimmick, there's little of interest onscreen.

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