Dir: John Woo. US. 2000. 126 mins.

Prod co: Paramount Pictures, Cruise/Wagner. US dist: Paramount Pictures. Int'l distribution: UIP. Prods: Tom Cruise, Paul Wagner. Exec prods: Terence Chang, Paul Hitchcock. Scr: Robert Towne. DoP: Jeffrey L Kimball. Prod des: Tom Sanders. Ed: Christian Wagner, Steven Kemper. Visual effects supervisor: Richard Yuricich. Music: Hans Zimmer. Main cast: Tom Cruise, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Richard Roxburgh, John Polson, Brendan Gleeson, Rade Sherbedgia, Ving Rhames.

When it really gets down to work, Mission Impossible 2, directed with giddy abandon by Hong Kong stylist John Woo, delivers the goods: spectacularly filmed martial arts-style action and a sexy romance that should ensure long lines of young moviegoers of both sexes. The only question is how tolerant the thrill-seekers will be of the hour or so in which the film spins out its fairly simple plot in a style that seems needlessly tortured and artsy.

Like everyone else in the film (and everywhere else: locations in the US and Australia get some nice screen time), Cruise looks terrific as international man of mystery Ethan Hunt. To his credit, the star surrenders himself to the film's melodramatic style and appears to handle some thrillingly impressive stunt work without the help of a stand-in. As Hunt's love interest, big-time jewel thief Nyah, Newton has a refreshing edge that works well early on but is wasted later. Scott is OK as the villain, though someone with a more pronounced wickedness might have given the film an extra kick.

The plot has Hunt trying to retrieve a deadly virus whose antidote has been captured by a former colleague. It doesn't have the genuine intrigue of the first film's post-Cold War machinations, and its set-up is dragged out for far too long. But once Hunt's goal is set, the pace picks up and Woo's inventive way with familiar action scenarios begins to pay off.