Though he is something like eighth-billed, "X2's" secret weapon and most persuasive performance comes from Brian Cox as the evil Stryker. This will not surprise anyone who's seen Cox's unforgettable work as the original Hannibal Lecter in "Manhunter" or as Big John, the child molester with a heart of gold in "L.I.E." One of the best and least appreciated of today's film actors, Cox has a powerfully convincing way with under-your-skin evil.
Actually, the acting in "X2" is better than average for this kind of movie, with Jackman being especially effective as the muscular, tortured Wolverine, who finds out more about his past and gets to battle the equally fierce Deathstrike (Kelly Hu) in the film's action centerpiece.
One of the unexpected aspects of "X2" is the way its concerns seem to be uncannily relevant today, starting with an opening observation that "sharing the world has never been humanity's defining attribute." And the central theme of both the film and the comic -- how relentlessly suspicious we are of those who are different -- has equal resonance just now. "X2" might not be the place you'd think to look for any kind of message, but there you are.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and brief language.
Times guidelines: Comic book violence, some of it fairly intense; highly suggestive costumes
Patrick Stewart...Professor Charles Xavier
Famke Janssen...Jean Grey
Brian Cox...William Stryker
In association with Marvel Enterprises Inc, a the Donners' Co./Bad Hat Harr Production production, released by Twentieth Century Fox. Director Bryan Singer. Producers Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter. Executive producers Avi Arad, Stan Lee, Tom DeSanto, Bryan Singer. Screenplay Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris and David Hayter, story by Zak Penn and David Hayter & Bryan Singer. Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel. Editor John Ottman. Costumes Louise Mingenbach. Music John Ottman. Production design Guy Hendrix Dyas. Art director Helen Jarvis. Set decorator Elizabeth Wilcox. Running time: 2 hours, 13 minutes.
In general release.