XXX: State Of The Union
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XXX: State Of The Union

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XXX: State Of The Union

Director: Lee Tamahori
Runtime: 101 minutes
Cast: Ice Cube, Samuel L. Jackson, Willem Dafoe

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It's hard to imagine a James Bond movie—outside of the spoof Casino Royale—in which an anonymous supporting character simply announces with a complete lack of fanfare that the legendary super-spy has died offscreen and needs to be replaced. Yet XXX: State Of The Union conveys the death of Vin Diesel's bungee-jumping, Napster-downloading, Mountain Dew-slamming original XXX just that nonchalantly. It's hard to get too distraught about the character's passing, however; Diesel's 2002 film XXX represented the probable nadir of Hollywood attempts to exploit and co-opt youth subcultures beyond the understanding of movie marketing departments. Granted, it's not exactly a positive sign that Diesel rejected XXX: State Of The Union but gave a thumbs-up to A Man Apart, The Chronicles Of Riddick, and The Pacifier, but XXX's totally x-treme demographics-pandering left nowhere to go but up.

Thankfully, State Of The Union's pulpy, adrenalized blaxploitation spin on the secret-agent genre provides the dumb fun its predecessor should have dished out. In a performance that taps into the malevolent scowl and sneering black rage of his NWA days, Ice Cube takes over as the new XXX, an ex-Navy Seal sent to prison for breaking the jaw of future Secretary Of Defense Willem Dafoe, whose villainous traitor is like a slightly more evil version of Donald Rumsfeld. When Dafoe begins to embark upon a sinister plan to unseat a namby-pamby President whose weakness for "compromise" and "cooperation" mark him as a decidedly un-W-like leader, master spy Samuel L. Jackson helps spring Cube from prison to fight for truth, justice, and the right to blow shit up. (State Of The Union easily qualifies as the year's most explosive movie, at least in the sense that stuff in it is always ka-blammo.)

As with the Bond movies, State Of The Union's preposterousness constitutes much of its pulpy B-movie charm. By the time Cube is chasing a bullet train in a sleek sports car, even the fuzziest notion of plausibility has long been jettisoned. State Of The Union devotes a fair amount of screen time to establishing just how x-treme Cube's badass is, but thankfully eases off the laughably unconvincing Gen-Y 'tude and subculture-humping that rendered the original so nauseatingly calculating and instantly dated. For the most part, State Of The Union just delivers the goods, providing constant explosions, big setpieces, nonstop one-liners, a blaring soundtrack, flashy support from Dafoe and Jackson, and even a hint of political consciousness in its condemnation of Dafoe's gung-ho militarism. They don't hand out Academy Awards to sequels whose improvements on their awful franchise-starters make them more entertaining than they have any right to be. But if they did, XXX: State Of The Union would join already-forgotten screen-fillers like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider—The Cradle Of Life in Oscar glory.

Filed Under: Film

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