Directed by Jonathan Mostow, starring Arnold Schwarznegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes and Kristanna Loken.

I always had a problem with 'Terminator 2:Judgement Day'.

In a nutshell - if I was a shape-shifting, killing machine, a sinister cop would be the last person in the world I would choose to look like. Surely it would be better to go on a charm offensive and turn into Meg Ryan? Failing that, you could opt for the most anonymous visage possible, a futuristic robotic assassin could don Timothy Spall's face and pass unnoticed by anyone until it was time to get medieval on John Connor's ass.

Seems like the makers of 'T-3: Rise of the Machines' had the same problem and predictably, they gave the Mike Leigh option a wide berth. Instead, they decided that the TX super-Terminator's ferocious array of weaponry should be mounted on the chassis of a bona fide Hollywood babe (Kristanna Loken). A sort of sexy Swiss Army Knife, if you like.

The basic plot is pretty much the same as 'Terminator 2' - a vicious killing machine is sent back from the future to assassinate rebel leader in waiting John Connor (the limp Nick Stahl), and another Terminator (Ah-nuld, natch) is dispatched to protect him. Again, there's a female presence, in the shape of a feisty vet (Claire Danes).

The script plays to Schwarzenegger's comic abilities by peppering the explosions with jokes, some of which are surprisingly amusing. It also (and less successfully) introduces a moral quandary, allowing Schwarzenegger to actually attempt acting, which as we know, is not his forte.

Arnie's forte, of course, is kicking ass, and let's face it, plot is not what you're paying for here. Fortunately, the mayhem doesn't disappoint. A breakneck chase through the streets of LA see the TX commandeering a mobile construction crane, resulting in more obliterated cars than an all-night session of 'Grand Theft Auto'. The special effects are truly impressive and appealingly realistic-looking, in contrast to the CGI sheen of so many recent movies. The T-1 Terminator even has the stop-motion movement of 'Robocop's magnificent ED-209.

Danes and Stahl's love-hate relationship never gets out of the blocks, with director Jonathan Mostow making sure that watching the two robots battle it out is the main event as he steers 'T3' deftly towards its downbeat conclusion. Series creator James Cameron is a tough act to follow, and any low expectations of 'T-3' have been comfortably exceeded.

Given the high pretension factor of recent actioners like 'Hulk' and 'The Matrix Reloaded' it's particularly wonderful to enjoy a high-octane blockbuster without having to swallow a load of half-baked philosophy and angst into the bargain.

If there is any subtext, it's provided by our luscious anti-heroine, the T-X Terminator, who slyly enhances her own breasts while cruising the streets of Hollywood in a sports car. Just another beautiful automaton, looking to make it big in Tinseltown.

Luke McManus