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2004 Roundup
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"xXx: State of the Union"

Directed by Lee Tamahori ("Die Another Day").
Written by Simon Kinberg.
Starring Ice Cube, Willem Dafoe, Scott Speedman and Samuel L. Jackson.
Release Year:  2005

Review Date:  5/1/05

Folks-- 

I rounded up a gang of thieves, including Chuck "The Daddy" Longer, Rina Fo' Fina, Ross, and Mr. Stokes, to go see what we all thought would certainly be the worst film of 2005..."xXx: State of the Union" (known going forward as "xXx 2").  Sadly, I must report the truth to the good people of our viewing audience...

"xXx 2" did NOT suck.

In fact, if you go with the right group of people and realize that no one working on this production was worried about comparisons with "Citizen Kane" or "Schindler's List", "xXx 2" is actually a hilarious time at the movies because at almost every turn, this film is totally fucking ridiculous.

Where do I even begin?  How about with Ice Cube, cast in the lead role for the sequel as Darius Stone, former Navy SEAL and the Navy's second-best sniper training score holder in history?  The Cube is great here, back in scowl mode after a few years off as the heir apparent to Eddie Murphy's newfound family film career; he isn't asked to do much more than fire weapons and look tough, and thankfully the one-liners Stone must reel off are kept to a minimum.  Playing a convict that was wrongly imprisoned nine years ago by a corrupt government official (Willem Dafoe, apparently blind to the writing on the wall after doing "Speed 2: Cruise Control" all those years ago), Stone is broken outta the joint by his former field supervisor, Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson, reprising his role from the first film).  Why would one government guy break a former soldier out of prison?  Well, after Gibbons' entire NSA unit is assassinated in a raid to open the film, he needs someone to investigate who was behind the attacks...someone with the skills that pay the bills, and apparently there was no one else besides Stone available.

There were about 40 times during this film where, due to script inaccuracies, stretches of incredible disbelief or plain ol' Hollywood gratuitousness, I could not stop howling.  I have decided that in the case of "xXx 2", this didn't make the film bad so much as setting up minor roadblocks for me to decide whether or not I should slam this into Hard Vice territory or elevate it to the price that I paid for it, Matinee.  Examples:

  • Stone has been in prison for nine years; the next day, in four minutes, he breaks out of a maximum security prison almost completely by himself.  And, he resumes one-shot across-the-field kills the following morning.  Maybe Stone was playing "Duck Hunt" in his prison cell.

  • At one point, Stone goes from a dinner downtown to a senator's house in Charlottesville.  Even though this would take no less than two hours in real life, in the movie:  fifteen minutes.

  • Every morning, I keep asking myself the same question: how cool would it be to put a temporary stripper pole on the hood of my '97 Saturn for girls to dance on while I hang out in a auto mod garage?  "xXx 2" answers that question for me.

  • As NSA agents investigating the initial slaughter go over Stone's profile, the producers decided to use a shot of the young Cube while he was in N.W.A. to highlight his upbringing.  This made all of us--old-school rap fans, for sure--burst with approval.

  • Bruce Bruce, quite simply the biggest black guy I've ever seen on screen and the host of some comedy show on BET, with my favorite line of the film:  "That ain't no cheese!"

Lee Tamahori, who brought Bond back to life with "Die Another Day" a couple of years ago, does inject good times with his action sequences; some of the stuntwork in "xXx 2" really DOES look dangerous, right down to one number where you definitely see a stuntman thrown out of the way by a Humvee that makes contact with him.  From the sheer amount of exploding vehicles, at least the film looks dangerous, even if it is fluffy and a prototypical "big, loud, dumb" formula thriller; plus, I did like the soundtrack and any scene involving Xzibit just kind of hangin' out.

At the end of the day, though, "xXx 2" is not great.  Its PG-13 rating--also a bane for the first "xXx"--limits the amount of violence included here (although the producers did their best to squeeze every little bit out of the ratings boards, thanks to gunplay, fistfights, and high amounts of innocents getting killed) and the film comes from other objectify-women-at-all-costs rule-based systems like "The Fast and the Furious" and "Torque."  Hell, I think there were only two women with lines in the whole damned movie, including Nona Gaye as the Cube love interest, who looks like she is wearing a top that is about to explode at any moment throughout the movie.  Peter Strauss, playing the President, looks like he trying hard just to get his lines to sound like he is buying into any of this bullshit.  The movie's main plot, which involves the Dafoe character's intent on removing the President from office, doesn't even have any muster to it...he wants more funding for a military bill, so when he doesn't get it, he plots to take over the free world?  And, finally, there are no lines that measure up to still might be the funniest line of the last...forever, from the first "xXx":

"Bitches...COME!"

Well...at least I came in with low expectations.  Ultimately, I would have preferred to see Vin Diesel back in his role from the first film, but it was not meant to be (his character is even killed off in reported events during the sequel)...he obviously felt that "The Pacifier" was a better route for him to take.  Wuss.

Rating:  Matinee

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09