Movie Reviews

XXX: State of the Union

Reviewed by: Edward Douglas
Rating: 3 out of 10
Movie Details: View here

Ice Cube as Darius Stone
Samuel L. Jackson as Agent Augustus Gibbons
Willem Dafoe as George Deckert
Peter Strauss as President Sanford
Scott Speedman as Agent Kyle Steele
Nona M. Gaye as Lola
Michael Roof as Agent Toby Lee Shavers
Xzibit as Zeke
Sunny Mabrey as Charlie
Ramon De Ocampo as Agent Meadows
Masuimi Max as Zeke's girlfriend
John G. Connolly as Bama
Matt Gerald as Liebo
Tony Malanga as Bama CommandoTank Driver
J. Patrick Pitts as Bama Commando
Rudi Rose as Bama Commando
Joe Robinson as Senate Intern
David Rountree as Young FBI Agent
Jeanne Sakata as Field Reporter
Ned Schmidtke as Gen. Jack Pettibone
Barry Sigismondi as Bull

Although Cube holds his own as the new XXX, this sequel is so generic and derivative, the plot and dialogue so ludicrously bad, that it's hard to turn your brain off and even enjoy the action. A very disappointing sequel that fails to live up to the original.

When the government is in danger of a terrorist attack, NSA Agent Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) must find a new XXX to replace Xander Cage. He picks Darius Stone (Ice Cube) a former soldier being held in a military prison for hitting a superior officer. Together, they must try to stop an attempt to overthrow the government, but like the former XXX, Stone likes to use his own unconventional means to get things done.

What Worked:
First of all, any doubts that this franchise might be missing something without Vin Diesel should be cast aside, as Ice Cube does a fine job taking over the mantle of XXX, adding his own unique brand of humor and attitude. The Cube factor allows for some genuinely funny recurring gags, especially when he's using his own tactics for getting undercover. The way he does things very differently from the typical "secret agent" keeps things fresh.

Likewise, it's nice to see Samuel L. Jackson getting a bigger part in the sequel, as he's often proven that he can carry a movie like this by himself. The two play off each other so well that it makes their scenes together some of the best parts of the movie.

Willem Dafoe is great as the baddie, as he usually is, even though he is forced to utter some of the worst dialogue he has ever had to utter while playing a cliché of an action movie villain. Kind of a shame that you'd have the genius to cast him but not let him do something a bit more original.

There are some decent action scenes, which is really the best reason to see this, but only the final chase sequence comes closest to some of the better scenes of the first XXX or even director Lee Tamahori's last film Die Another Day. Then again, it is kind of fun seeing a hole blasted into the side of the Capitol Building.

What Didn't Work:
Where to even begin? Although the premise of rotating XXX agents works fine, the sequel fails to come even close to what made the original so different and unique. A lot of this comes from the rather generic and incredibly lame plot of a government take-over, which tries its hardest to play up to American patriotism, but arrives far too late to be effective. Sure, it's great seeing Ice Cube taking on authority, but it comes out at a time when the country has already settled into place and has stopped trying to resist the system.

The story also tries to tie the bad guy into Augustus Gibbons' past with members of his Navy Seal team being murdered to throw the NSA off the track of the bad guys' real intentions. This makes the plot far too complicated for this type of movie. It confuses the matter and requires far too much explanation and dialogue for its own good, because that exposition slows down the pace considerably.

The writing is awful. I mean, it's the type of bad writing that you may expect to hear coming out of an elementary school screenwriting class. The worst of it is the dialogue between the President and Dafoe's Secretary of Defense as they butt heads. The bad writing extends across the board, even down to the police officers surrounding a house that Darius is supposedly have broken into. If you guessed they would say "Come out with your hands up!" then you've obviously seen too many bad movies! Action movies do not have to be bad, but when you hack out a script filled with such ridiculous clichés, there's little chance you're going to keep your audience once the guns stop shooting.

For a movie that has made it clear that it's trying to update the Bond mythos, it certainly seems like it harks back to the old Sean Connery movies at least as far as the action. (Extra points to anyone who figures out the less than subtle nod to OO7 during the dinner gala.)

With Vin Diesel gone, others need to fill in the space. You would think that Jackson and Ice Cube would be enough, but for whatever reason, they give a lot more screen time to Michael Roof's character, Toby, who was merely XXX's version of Q in the first movie. He's everywhere in the sequel attempting to add even more comic relief, despite Ice Cube having that well in hand, and for whatever reason, he's played a lot more effeminate then the last movie. No idea where this came from and why it got past the quality control department.

The relationship between Darius Stone and his ex-girlfriend, played by Nona Gaye, serves almost no point to the story, except maybe to throw in a bit of romance for the half dozen women who might unwittingly be dragged into theatres to see this. It kills the pace of the movie, not once or twice, but at least three times.

Worst of all, the movie plays up to the worst Hollywood racial stereotypes from beginning to end. A lot of the plot centers around Cube's character being "kept down by the man", in this case the mostly white government. Of course, this means that all of the white people in the movie are either going to be dumb (like Toby) or evil, as is the case with a manipulative woman named Charlie, played by Sunny Mabrey. At first, she seems to be a senator's daughter trying to hook up with Darius, but when Stone finds out she's using him, he punches her out. There's a very strange mixed message in her character's involvement with Stone, first as a possible love interest and then as a punching bag. That's not the actions that one would normally attribute to a character that should be a role model.

Then of course, there are Stone's connections to drug dealers, car thieves and the like who all help him with this mission. If you really think about it, Stone would have worked just fine as an ornery military man, but connecting him to criminals plays up to the types of stereotypes that should be outdated. Also, if someone has just escaped from jail, you would think they'd be more careful about the company they keep.

The Bottom Line:
Sure, one could sit back with a tub of popcorn and enjoy all the shooting and things blowing up, but this sequel is so generic and mindless that it never does justice to what Rob Cohen and Vin Diesel were trying to do with the idea in the first place.

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