You'd half expect the Xbox logo to pop up on the credit roll for "XXX: State of the Union," since what's on view is closer to a videogame than a movie. While that will be music to the ears of young gamers, it's noise to anyone hoping for a coherent action movie along the lines of the franchise's first pic, starring Vin Diesel.

You’d half expect the Xbox logo to pop up on the credit roll for “XXX: State of the Union,” since what’s on view is closer to a videogame than a movie. While that will be music to the ears of young gamers, it’s noise to anyone hoping for a coherent action movie along the lines of the franchise’s first pic, starring Vin Diesel. With Ice Cube as the new XXX, street cred replaces extreme sports. But with other tentpoles and Darth Vader in the wings, it will take more than a few B.O. smackdowns for this one to reach the original’s $276 global cume.

Devotees of the franchise learned on the “XXX” vid that Diesel’s character was offed in, of all places, Bora Bora. Judging by Cube’s ridiculous resilience here, this dude will be a whole lot harder to snuff. After a black-ops unit penetrates an NSA compound, Agent Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson, back in the proverbial saddle) realizes he needs a fresh XXX “with more attitude.” Bring on Cube’s Darius Stone, a Navy Seals ace under Gibbons during a failed operation that led to Stone’s court martial and landed him in prison. The price of his freedom is apparently having to deal with the geekiness of Gibbons’ techie, Toby (Michael Roof), who seems to be around this time to act like the clueless white guy.

Gibbons and Stone, not knowing who’s causing trouble to the Republic, have much poking around to do. This includes Stone running aimlessly through NSA hallways, arranging for tricked-up super trucks from sexy mechanic Lola (Nona Gaye) and turning a deluxe Sea Doo into a missile. With Gibbons apparently killed in a house explosion by nefarious right-wing Defense Secretary George Deckert (Willem Dafoe), and with Stone hoodwinked by blonde bombshell Charlie (Sunny Mabrey), who’s working for Deckert, things are looking bad.

Disguised as a waiter during a cocktail party, Stone overhears Deckert’s planned White House coup, and director Lee Tamahori dips into his experience helming Bond pics for some clever intrigue. It’s sustained, momentarily, with Stone’s testy dealings with upright NSA agent Kyle Steele (Scott Speedman).

The rest of the time, though, Tamahori seems to want to turn this “XXX” edition into a comedy, but with a blueprint from busy tyro screenwriter Simon Kinberg (who also has this summer’s “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “The Fantastic Four” on his resume), the plot seems like a fusion of a teen boy’s idea of how the government operates and a half-jokey, half-cracked Tom Clancy retread. To believe Deckert as war chief to Peter Strauss’ liberal President Sanford is to allow Richard Perle as secretary of defense to, say, a President Dennis Kucinich.

The only thing that really matters is whether the action scenes push the envelope — and they don’t, especially compared with the extreme sports style of the first “XXX.” The current pic’s sequences, full of bulky military hardware, bang and lumber rather than fly and astonish, with a finale that serves as a poor tribute to the climax of “Air Force One,” featuring yet another president hanging on for dear life at the end of an airborne tether.

If Cube had funnier lines, rather than the risible innuendo he must exchange with Gaye, he would have been able to pour on the charm he’s displayed before. Apparently cast for his Rushmore-like jaw, Strauss has little else to offer as president.

More than any other production contributor, stunt coordinator R. A. Rondell labors above and beyond the call of duty, while composer Marco Beltrami apparently has never heard a fortissimo he doesn’t like.

XXX: State of the Union

Production

A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Revolution Studios and Columbia Pictures presentation of an Original Film production. Produced by Neal H. Moritz, Arne L. Schmidt. Executive producers, Todd Garner, Rob Cohen, Derek Dauchy.Directed by Lee Tamahori. Screenplay, Simon Kinberg, based on characters created by Rich Wilkes.

Crew

Camera (Technicolor, Deluxe and Technicolor prints, Panavision widescreen), David Tattersall; editors, Mark Goldblatt, Steven Rosenblum, Todd E. Miller; music, Marco Beltrami; music supervisors, Laura Z. Wasserman, Darren Higman; production designer, Gavin Bocquet; supervising art director, Mark W. Mansbridge; art director, Bradford Ricker; set designers, Kristen Davis, Mark Hitchler, Lawrence A. Hubbs; set decorator, Hilton Rosemarin; costume designer, Sanja Milkovic Hays; makeup, Hallie D'Amore; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Willie Burton; sound designer, Christopher Boyes; supervising sound editors, Tom Bellfort, Frank Eulner; visual effects supervisors, David Dozoretz; special effects supervisor, John Frazier; visual effects, Persistence of Vision; additional visual effects, Pacific Title and Art Studio, Hydraulx, Tweak Films; stunt coordinator, R. A. Rondell; assistant director, J. Michael Haynie; second unit director, Geoff Murphy; second unit camera, Philip Pfeiffer; casting, Margery Simkin. Reviewed at AMC Avco Center Four Cinemas, Los Angeles, April 26, 2005. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 100 MIN.

With

XXX/Darius Stone - Ice Cube Sec. of Defense George Deckert - Willem Dafoe Agent Kyle Steele - Scott Speedman President Sanford - Peter Strauss Augustus Gibbons - Samuel L. Jackson Zeke - Xzibit Toby Lee Shavers - Michael Roof Charlie - Sunny Mabrey Lola - Nona Gaye Lt. Alabama "Bama" Cobb - John G. Connolly

Filed Under:

Want Entertainment News First? Sign up for Variety Alerts and Newsletters!
Post A Comment 0