Film — XXX: State of the Union (PG-13)

XXX: State of the Union (PG-13)

by Amy Diaz

Ice Cube dusts off the gangster snarl and buffs up his arm muscles for the hip-hop-Bond actionsicle XXX: State of the Union.

Like any good tri-colored, gumball-topped rocket popsicle, XXX is brightly colored, full of that corn-syrupy flavor, drips on everything and leaves you feeling vaguely queasy toward the end.

Killing off the Vin Desiel version of XXX with a few throwaway lines near the movie’s beginning, NSA agent Augutus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) must search for a brand new black-ops purveyor of justice and street-cool. After he senses some traitors in the ranks of the government, he goes deep cover, taking only his Q-like gadget-builder with him. He breaks the former Navy SEAL Darrius Stone (Ice Cube) out of military jail (where, of course, he had been sentenced for all the wrong reasons) and begins to investigate a series of apparent assassinations that seem to suggest that the Secretary of Defense (Willem Dafoe) might be trying to take over the country from the current president (Peter Strauss).

I mention this plot twist, which is finally uncovered in the movie’s second half, because in this high-octane-sugar and colored-frozen-water affair there is very little in the way of plot. Also, the movie’s trailers had no problem spilling these particular beans even through Dafoe’s character’s treachery is treated as a gasp-inducing shocker. It’s not, of course. It, like everything in this movie, is heralded with trumpets and dancing girls and blinking neon signs that say “Plot Twist Ahead!” thus leaving nothing to doubt when we actually get to the big reveal. Not that I particularly expected subtlety from XXX but you’d think that in an age where we’ve become accustomed to the multi-layers of plot in action  entertainment such as 24 and Alias our shoot-em-ups could get a little smarter without losing anyone in the audience.

Like its precursor, State of the Union is hopelessly dopey and full of one-liners that are dropped right before the shooting begins. It has an occasional and off-hand entertainment value that comes from seeing exactly what you expect to happen happen and then seeing stuff blow up. The movie loses something from not being a fresh version of this and gains only slightly from the better (though dramatically underused) acting of Ice Cube (who is required by his character to scowl a lot but also gets in a few scowls that seem directed toward the monstrously lame dialog). If this XXX isn’t as much fun as the last XXX, it probably has to do with the fact that most of those best lines were taken.

- Amy Diaz

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