Xxx: State Of The Union

on April 29, 2005 by Wade Major
Print
There's an ominous Hollywood trend hidden between the excruciatingly badly written lines of "XXX: State of the Union" -- a recipe for success that seems to exclusively target inner-city 15-year-olds with little interest in anything but explosions, tough-talking one-liners, far-fetched set pieces and as many action film clich├ęs as will fit into the remaining spaces.

As they did with "The Fast and the Furious," director Rob Cohen and star Vin Diesel have opted to leave their participation in the "XXX" franchise at one. Their respective replacements -- Lee Tamahori and Ice Cube -- are hardly B-level choices, though rising above the D-level script by Simon Kinberg proves far too taxing for either man's talents. Returning from the first film is Samuel L. Jackson as spymaster Augustus Gibbons, the brains responsible for recruiting the deep-cover agents known as XXX. This time, though, it's Gibbons who's on the defensive as a Rumsfeldian Secretary of Defense (Willem Dafoe) attempts to orchestrate a coup of the United States government by eliminating anyone -- including the president -- who could conceivably stand in his way. Recognizing the need to go "off the grid" in recruiting a new XXX, Gibbons seeks out a court-martialed former special ops sharpshooter named Darius Stone (Cube), breaking him out of prison and unleashing him like a ravenous attack dog.

It remains to be seen whether foregoing the franchise's original concept -- extreme sports athletes as super spies -- was a prudent one. Clearly, whatever fan demographic accompanies a star like Ice Cube isn't going to be all that interested in snowboarding or surfing. But Cube's more family-friendly persona -- forged in recent years by strong turns in such pictures as "Barbershop" and its sequel -- has long since eclipsed his erstwhile "gangster rapper," suggesting that any kind of reliable demographic may be hard to come by. And for a film this consistently bad, this lazily-conceived, this embarrassingly amateurish, the lack of that crucial opening weekend demographic could spell quick doom.

Unfortunately, even cinephiles who wouldn't be caught dead near a film this dunderheaded won't be able to fully escape the tragedy of its mediocrity. Many are certain to be pained at this latest misstep in the decade-long fall of once-promising director Lee Tamahori. Since the New Zealander's sizzling 1994 breakthrough with "Once Were Warriors," he has become little more than a studio hack, overseeing an undistinguished series of generic action flicks, including the 2002 James Bond entry "Die Another Day." If a talent like Tamahori can fall prey to the soul-sucking awfulness of a film like "XXX: State of the Union," there would seem to be little hope for anyone else. Starring Ice Cube, Willem Dafoe, Samuel L. Jackson and Scott Speedman. Directed by Lee Tamahori. Written by Simon Kinberg. Produced by Neal H. Moritz and Arne L. Schmidt. A Columbia release. Action. Rated R for sequences of intense action violence and some language. Running time: 100 min

Tags: No Tags
Print

read all Reviews »


0 Comments

No comments were posted.

What do you think?