xXx: State of the Union (2005)
xXx: State of the Union (2005)

Genre: Action and Spy Running Time: 1 hr. 41 min.

Release Date: April 29th, 2005 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Lee Tamahori Actors: Ice Cube, Willem Dafoe, Samuel L. Jackson, Scott Speedman, Xzibit, Peter Strauss, Michael Roof, Sunny Mabrey, Nona Gaye, John G. Connolly, Ramon De Ocampo

 


 

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team of hi-tech ninja warriors (like something out of the G.I. Joe live-action movies, though it would be another four years before the likes of that franchise appeared on the screen) use illogically advanced weaponry to assault an underground NSA facility, hidden beneath a farm in Virginia. This bunker is part of the XXX program, which uses criminal daredevils to infiltrate and engage terrorist organizations. For some reason, if they’re bad dudes, the government will have leverage over these candidates – though that doesn’t explain why they would be effective, trustworthy, dependable, or even sane.

When Secretary of Defense General George Deckert (Willem Dafoe) informs the President of the United States (Peter Strauss) that the Virginia chapter was attacked, the leader of the free world demands immediate action. It’s evident that the NSA is in need of a tougher, deadlier deep-cover “XXX” agent (with more attitude). Plus, former savior of Earth Xander Cage was killed in Bora Bora (probably as some sort of simple revenge idea for Vin Diesel not reprising the role, reportedly since he demanded more money than Columbia Pictures wanted to pay). And so, XXX program leader Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) heads to a maximum security prison to recruit inmate 3655, Darius Stone (Ice Cube), a former Navy SEAL Lieutenant (and Special Forces sniper) serving a 20-year sentence for bad behavior. Rather than going through official channels, Gibbons commits “grand theft chopper” to break Stone out – and back into the battlefield to get to the bottom of the ninja warrior onslaught.

This mostly distant follow-up to the Vin Diesel action vehicle attempts to up the ante on stunts, explosions, and wisecracks. Interestingly, it doesn’t utilize the notion of a daredevil who enjoys street-racing, parachuting, skydiving, snowboarding, and jetskiing as much as it does the blander concept of an invincible juggernaut destroying everything around him. This new XXX is even more impervious to harm than James Bond. Fortunately, the bar was set incredibly low with the previous picture, making it fairly easy to craft something bigger and better. Here, the stunts are more extreme – or ridiculous – and the hubbub more frequent, with chaos erupting at a far faster pace than before. The action choreography is absolutely hilarious, as it’s utterly devoid of any realism, especially when Cube walks around in slow-motion as fireballs detonate behind him and background participants are thrown clear like rag dolls.

In addition, the soundtrack is also more potent and the dialogue snappier, while the villain is more sensibly designed and the heroine (Sunny Mabrey) better suited for this level of insincerity. Once again, the overload of calculated comedy is less amusing than the unintentional humor, but fortunately, the accidental hysterics are continual and unrelenting. Michael Roof returns as comic relief (and as an inside man, overly convenient when some hacking needs to be done) primarily to add one more familiar component, though his role is entirely extraneous. The fast cars also return, accompanied by a few clever racial jokes and a tank duel (which takes place very slowly and in a very tight space).

Meanwhile, the dialogue is about as generic as possible (Samuel L. Jackson reuses some of his lines and Ice Cube borrows a few of Jackson’s to spout as retorts) and the various attack plans involve storming the U.S. Capitol via “back alleys” (as characters say things like, “You know what to do”). As far as plots go, it doesn’t get much flimsier than this. But “xXx: State of the Union” isn’t all that interested in telling an intelligent story. All the firepower and gunplay could have been sufficient for a mindless actioner, but the spontaneous events and disinterest in sensible heroism (the finale contains at least three indescribably nonsensical stunts, poorly designed with CG) are enough to drastically stifle the entertainment value.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10