XXX: State of the Union
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What's the recipe for this XXX sequel? Same as the first. First, a heaping helping of James Bond. Add a cup or two of The Fast and the Furious. Garnish with explosions. Go easy on originality.
Unlike the Marines, Augustus Gibbons isn't looking for a few good men. He only needs one—someone with the skills to help him foil the machinations of a power-hungry secretary of defense, Gen. George Deckert, who is plotting a coup d'état. The last time he needed help, Gibbons turned to extreme-sports athlete Xander Cage. This time, a special ops soldier named Darius Stone gets the nod.
The first order of business: breaking Stone out prison. Once the wrongly imprisoned soldier is liberated, the pair begins to gather the information they need to stop Deckert's plan. Technical support comes via the gizmo-loving Tobby Lee Shavers (Q's hipper equivalent), who does everything from equipping cars with rockets to hacking into National Security Agency computers. The supporting cast includes an old girlfriend of Stone's, Lola Jackson, and an urban car tuner (and thief) named Zeke.
When Gibbons is apparently taken out of circulation by the ruthless Gen. Deckert, only Stone and his band of urban soldiers—and their rather unconventional tactics and pimped-out vehicles—can save the United States' president and its government from destruction.
Loyalty is the name of the game. Stone and Gibbons lay their lives on the line, as do Zeke, Toby and Lola. They're all ready to sacrifice for the sake of protecting America's freedom. NSA agent Kyle Steele initially believes Stone and Gibbons are the real enemies of the state. But once he's convinced of Deckert's nefarious plan, Steele does everything he can to stop the rogue official.
A pastor mentions "the good Lord" during a funeral service.
It's made known that Stone and Lola were lovers years before. Two conversations are loaded with innuendo. There's an allusion made to having sex in a car, and a reference to forced oral sex in prison. Stone has a conversation with Charlie in which she tells him he can have anything he wants—including her. He passes, muttering, "The things I give up for my country." Stone kisses Lola and begins pulling her dress strap off.
Lola and Charlie (a beautiful double agent in Deckert's employ), invariably wear outfits that barely constrain cleavage. Women wearing short skirts and skimpy tops are used as bait to hijack a semi full of guns. Another scene at a hip-hop club shows a woman pole dancing in a revealing outfit. After Gibbons springs Stone from prison, the former inmate tells his rescuers that there's something every man needs after being locked up—implying sex. Instead, he wants a burger.
Whether he's breaking out of prison, breaking into an NSA outpost or onto a purloined aircraft carrier, Darius Stone administers a beating to soldiers who oppose him, throttling them with fists and elbows, ramming their heads into walls and generally knocking them out. Several scenes show NSA agents getting mowed down by automatic gunfire (16 hapless agents are thus dispatched in the first scene alone). Just as frequently, explosions caused by tanks, bazookas and other incendiaries hurl victims across the screen. One scene shows the blood-splattered floor after a fierce firefight; another briefly reveals bloody corpses piled on top of one another.
Several scenes also depict more personal violence. Stone pistol whips Charlie's face; when she threatens to shoot Augustus, he coldly does so first, then asks, "Why didn't you shoot that b--ch when you had the chance?" In hand-to-hand combat, one of Deckert's henchmen pins Darius' arm to the wall with a large knife. Stone ignites a gas leak on a speeding bullet train, blowing his opponent right out the window—on fire. Gen. Deckert orders the execution of the train's engineer, and the camera cuts away just as Deckert's lackey shoots him in the head; Deckert also assigns the execution of several other innocent civilians.
Crude or Profane Language
The harshest language includes an f-word, an s-word and about half-a-dozen misuses of Jesus' and God's names (including "g--d--n"). Milder profanity is more frequent: about 30 combined uses of "a--," "h---," "d--n" and "b--ch."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Charlie drinks a glass of wine when she and Stone have lunch. He poses as a waiter and serves glasses of champagne to party guests. Deckert has a drink and suggests that his captive, Gibbons, should have one too. One of the general's underlings smokes a cigarette.
Other Negative Elements
Zeke (played by Pimp My Ride host Xzibit) owns a "chop shop," which serves as the base for an illegal auto-theft ring. In exchange for helping the government stop Gen. Deckert, Zeke asks Agent Steele to drop all charges and investigations related to his shop's illicit activities (to which he agrees).
In 1962, Ian Fleming's spy extraordinaire, James Bond, graduated from his creator's novels and came to life on the big screen in Dr. No. And the movie world has never been the same. Sean Connery's portrayal of the sophisticated and deadly British agent created an archetypal character and a genre of action film that's alive and well 43 years later.
The first XXX offered a new-millennium take on the James Bond formula, augmenting the usual elements—suave hero, curvy women, explosions, gadgets, intrigue and a villain you love to hate—with a dash of extreme sports and postmodern posturing. Audiences loved it, to the tune of $142 million. Enter the sequel, this time with Ice Cube instead of Vin Diesel.
Mr. Cube may not look or sound much like Sir Connery. But every element of the original Bond formula is still at work in XXX: State of the Union. This time, the modernizing element comes courtesy of the "fast and furious" underworld instead of extreme sports. Rap, not rock, provides the soundtrack.
But the film's characters are too paint-by-the-numbers for me. Even Willem Dafoe, normally an excellent choice for a villain (maybe it's his last name: Da-foe) seems to be wasting his talent on a throwaway movie. And I'm not picking on Dafoe because he stands out. His role is just one of many which could have been marked, "Insert cardboard character here."
Similarly, sequence after sequence strained my credulity. Tanks inside an aircraft carrier hanger trading monster shells? I'm no soldier, but it seems a misplaced shot—of which there are several—would likely be a bad thing for even a big boat. A prototype hot rod chasing a bullet train? Maybe. But jumping off the road and landing on the railroad track to catch it? This is simply too silly, too outlandish even by the (broad) standards of the genre.
The violence, however, is true to the genre. As is frequent profanity. Those objectionable elements, combined with obligatory cleavage shots had me ready to write this state of union on XXX2 long before the final explosion.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Ice Cube as Darius Stone/XXX; Samuel L. Jackson as Agent Augustus Gibbons; Michael Roof as Toby Lee Shavers; Willem Dafoe as Gen. George Deckert; Peter Strauss as President James Sanford; Scott Speedman as Agent Kyle Steele; Nona M. Gaye as Lola Jackson; Xzibit as Zeke; Sunny Mabrey as Charlie