xXx: State of the Union

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xXx: State of the Union
Review (4/10)
(By Rich Cline)

OK you don't expect a sequel to 2002's brainless XXX to be an action masterwork, but this is so preposterous that it feels like an overblown spoof of the original. Basically it's Charlie's Angels with testosterone. Bring Drew, Cameron and Lucy along and maybe it'd be watchable.

The original Agent XXX is dead, so his boss Augustus Gibbons (Jackson) springs an old colleague (Cube) from prison and installs him as the new XXX, a kind of renegade American James Bond with licence to do whatever it takes to get the job done. The current threat originates in the White House, where the right-wing Secretary of Defence (Dafoe) is plotting to oust the centrist President (Strauss) and take over. Enter Gibbons and crew, teaming with another agent (Speedman) and a few criminals (Gaye, Xzibit, et al) to save the world.

Excessively violent, extremely noisy and exceedingly fiery (virtually everything explodes), this exhausting film exists only to exploit action movie cliches. The story is ludicrous; there's little sense of character. Tamahori exhibits some of the exuberant skill he brought to Die Another Day; the film rockets along with an exaggerated energy that's actually quite hilarious. But it's so over-the-top that it's even more numbing than the first film. And with the high noise factor it's often excruciating.

Ice Cube manages to hold things together with sheer attitude; Jackson is clearly enjoying every minute; and Dafoe is in his villainous Spider-man mode, chomping on scenery with glee. But everyone seems aware that this is a deeply corny, illogical mess. The dialog is full of jingoistic nonsense ("We're gonna have to go further off the grid and outside the box!"); the special effects are so cartoonish that they're not remotely exciting, and they're not coherent enough to be funny. There's lots of cool stuff here for the boys--cars, guns, bombs, outfits, gadgets, big-bosomed babes. And the solution to every problem is to flamboyantly blow something up. In this film, America is a land of violence, injustice and madmen. It's just laughably bad. You might even say it's execrable.

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