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xXx: State of the Union

Every action film has its flaws. From implausible plotlines to against all odds escapes in the heat of battle, heroes prevail in films such as these when they should, under any realistic plausibility, die excruciatingly painful deaths. On the other hand, maybe in a realistic setting said heroes would never even find themselves in such situations because such scenarios simply do not exist most of the time.

That said, realism has little to do with why we go to see films such as xXx: State of the Nation. We pay for spectacle induced entertainment, but this doesn’t mean we want a film completely devoid of spotted intellect or insight in between explosive action pieces either.

Here we have a sequel to a film that some loved and others hated. It’s a film that by all intents and purposes should fail miserably on all accounts, yet manages to do quite the opposite. Yes, prepare to be shocked, but you could do a lot worse than xXx: State of the Union when it comes to blockbuster action spectacle. I’m as surprised as you are.

The plot smacks of the usual routine. An unlikely hero named Darius Stone (Ice Cube) is recruited to become the next xXx agent by Agent Augustus Gibbons (Samuel Jackson) when masked assassins infiltrate the xXx headquarters. Gibbons manages to escape and decides to enlist Stone, a former Navy Seal who served under Gibbons during Desert Storm. One thing stands in the way, Stone is serving a prison sentence for his acts of defiance in regards to direct orders from his commanding officer, George Deckert (Willem Dafoe).

To no one’s surprise, Deckert’s commands placed innocent lives in danger to serve his own political agenda. Gibbons suffered severe burns rescuing innocents from the wreckage while Stone punched out his commanding officer, who has since become the U.S. Secretary of Defense. You can just smell all of this coming together right? Neatly intertwined subplots, all of which point to Government conspiracies and other political coups that cause our hero to have to jump from vehicles at high speeds all while exploding stuff real good-like?


So what makes this potentially run of the mill disaster in waiting work?

Two words: Ice Cube.

Well, sort of. It begins with Cube, and the vibe is carried on throughout the film by the rest of the cast. Jackson is, as always, enjoyably curt and cool in his role. Nona Gaye shows up as Lola, a woman from the streets who has worked her way up from a chop-shop to her own restoration business catering to rich men with rich taste.

The only sore thumb in the group is a carryover from the first dismal film, an Agent Toby Lee Shavers (Michael Roof). Sigh inducing at every turn he should have suffered the same off-screen fate in Bora Bora as Vin Diesel’s xXx, Xander Cage.

It’s the little touches that make the film workable, but this isn’t to say that the film is flawless. Not by a long shot. In fact, it seems to wear its flaws on its sleeve in exchange for inserting a subtly constructed political message, yet never crosses the line into outright parody. The idea of a full-tilt action film with a cast comprising of nearly entirely African-Americans is profound, and the closing sequences depicting an, albeit outlandish, assault on Washington D.C. have a distinct feel that can’t help but aid the political undertones strewn throughout the film.

Imagine a film that incorporates a predominately ethnic cast in preventing a plot in which the lives of countless enlisted Americans hangs in the balance by a proposed Military Bill that will be introduced in a State of the Union Address by the President. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing jaw-droppingly profound about this movie, but there is enough to keep you thinking, at least a little bit, in between all of the explosions.


Mario Anima

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