Action sequences, high octane explosions, modern day gadgets, and expensive cars draw large audiences. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always equate to quality filmmaking. In a genre that continues to disappoint year after year and film after film, xXx: State of the Union does nothing to change that pattern.
Samuel Jackson continues his role as Agent Augustus Gibbons from the original xXx. After a break in of a top secret military warehouse occurs, Gibbons goes to prison to seek the help of former military partner and current convict Darius Stone (Ice Cube). As a man who has been imprisoned by the system for nine years his reaction is clear.
“I’m not feeling too patriotic today.”
After some convincing, a farcical and unrealistic jail breakout culminates in a slow motion jump from a rooftop to a helicopter. As the action ensues, the President of the United States of America is set to introduce his new military budget at the annual State of the Union address. It becomes apparent that, Secretary of State, General George Octavius Deckert (Willem Dafoe) isn’t too thrilled with the proposal as he quickly schemes ulterior plans.
From here, the pursuit is on. Darius is the typical “I’ll do it my way” action character. Along the way, he takes a boat on a high speed chase that ends up on a highway. He then goes undercover to get answers from an attractive senator’s daughter. Later he is deceived by that same “hottie.” The action gets even more redundant when Darius brings friend Zeke, played by rapper Xzibit, into the mix. Zeke assembles his posse of hoodlums to try and stop Deckert’s assassination attempt on the President. As if this group of thugs cares. They are simply in it to blow things up and highjack vehicles. This includes what is later depicted as their first tank jacking ever. The result is obvious... more expensive cars, more intense explosions, and more cheesy one-liners. The fact that I’ve neglected to mention the developing romance between Darius and his ex-girlfriend is further proof that this film is pointless. At this junction, does anyone care whether or not Darius will fit in time to work his sexual prowess? The film is rife with racial stereotypes. All the white characters appear as proper high class nerds and all the blacks as crime ridden gang bangers. Then we are left with the honor of hearing such terms as “homeboy” and “hillbilly” tossed around as friendly nicknames.
Worst of all, State of the Union just makes no sense. Even the most avid conspiracy theorists among us would not believe these plot twists. Does anyone really believe for one second that the Secretary of Defense would develop an army style attack on the President? Especially on the night of the most watched political speech of the year?
xXx: State of the Union is nonstop action with just enough plot mixed in to be able to call it a dramatic thriller. The way the heroes narrowly avoid explosions and other death defying situations is reminiscent of a bad Schwarzenegger flick from the 1980s. The dialog is comparable to the silly staged verbal disputes between two professional wrestlers. Did I mention that Ice Cube’s character drives a sports car onto a high speed bullet train while moving in excess of 200 miles per hour? Ohh yes! It’s true!
The special features on the DVD are actually slightly more interesting than the actual movie. Director Lee Tamahori mentions in the feature, “From Conflict to Hero: The Making of xXx: State of the Union”, that he rarely deletes scenes from his films. In fact he tends to find himself re-shooting more than cutting. This might explain why there are only three deleted scenes that last less than a minute each.
“From Conflict to Hero: The Making of xXx: State of the Union” lasts over 40 minutes itself and pretty much gives the entire basis of the film. You could save a little time and lots of boredom by watching just the special features. This portion is divided into two chapters. “Boot Camp” goes through some of the training with the actors and gives some general technological information. “Special Ops” mainly deals with the recruitment of actual military soldiers to fill the roles of the extras.
Three featurettes are also present. In “Bullet Train Breakdown” we are able to see how some of the action was filmed. There are even interactive storyboards that allow the user to get a glimpse of how the process is drawn out, only I couldn’t fully figure out how to work the program with my remote. After sitting through the film I didn’t care to spend that much time on it. The next featurette is “Top Secret Military Warehouse”. This explains the action and development of the facility that makes up about fifteen minutes of footage near the beginning of the film. Then we get to hear Ice Cube’s take on the film in “xXx: according to Ice Cube”.
More than once in the special features section I was compelled to laugh. One of those times came when Director Tamahori talks about the importance of a good story and plot over special effects. Is he for real? Then David Kennedy, technical advisor mentions that, “Almost all of the technology on this film is plausible.” I guess he would know better than me.