December 6, 2005 -- I did not watch “XXX: State of the Union” until it came out on video because of the bad reviews. However, when I finally did see it, it was not as bad as I was led to believe it was. It may, in fact, be slightly better than the average big, dumb action film.
There was no reason to believe this film would be any good. The original XXX, starring Vin Diesel wasn't very good. Diesel did not agree to act in the sequel. That's a bad sign. Most sequels are not as good as the original film, another reason to be pessimistic. I decided to rent the video for a dollar anyway. I was pleasantly surprised. Not a bad story, lots of action, good stunts, special effects and some hot women. This is pretty much what you expect from this kind of film.
Ice Cube (“Three Kings”) stars as former Navy Seal Darius Stone. He is broken out of prison and recruited to be the new agent XXX by his old military commander, Agent Augustus Gibbons (played by Samuel L. Jackson of “ Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.” Gibbons' secret NSA base is taken out by a commando team and Gibbons wants someone from outside the NSA to get to the bottom of the raid. Stone wants to do things his way and that seems to be just fine by Gibbons. Stone and Gibbons are joined by gadget geek Toby Lee Shavers (played by Michael Roof). They hook up with some of Stone's old chop shop buddies on the outside to take on a powerful and well-equipped foe. Stone's motivational speech to the criminals, explaining why they should preserve the federal government, has to be seen to be believed. Also in the film is Willem Dafoe of “Spider-Man” playing Gen. George Octavius Deckert and Peter Strauss, who plays President James Sanford and Scott Speedman, who plays Agent Kyle Steele.
Getting to the bottom of the plot and foiling it is an activity that takes up most of the film. This involves a lot of gunfights, car chases, explosions, hand-to-hand combat and some spy capers. The action scenes are handled very well through a seamless combination of stunts and computer-generated graphics. Many of the action sequences are impossible, but they look cool. There is a lot of violence, but it is mainly the bloodless comic book kind of violence. This is a fairly light and breezy action film. The plot doesn't stand up to close inspection, but it is an O.K. popcorn movie. I would not spend a lot of money on it, though. It rates a C+.
The DVD has the usual features, with a couple of “making of” documentaries, Director Lee Tamahori's (“Die Another Day”) commentary, visual effects commentary, English (Dolby® Digital 5.1) and French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround) soundtracks, three deleted scenes with optional commentary, and some other stuff. This film is a true widescreen film with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, which means you'll miss a lot of the original image if you get one of those “full screen” tapes or DVDs of this movie. I thought is was funny that the filmmakers go on and on in the featurettes about trying to make the film believable. I can see where they did a lot of the little things right, but you have to have a believable script in the first place, and that is missing.
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