XXX: State of the Union

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 07/23/05 20:25:21

"It's so bad you may actually miss Vin Diesel. Well, maybe just a little."
1 stars (Sucks)

There’s a scene about halfway through “XXX: State of the Union” in which convict-turned-superspy Ice Cube, disguised as a waiter, sneaks up on Secretary of Defense Willem Dafoe at a gala Washington ball and overhears him discussing his plans to kill the President and overthrow the government with some anonymous Washington bigwig. Which begs the questions:

1. Wouldn’t you notice if Ice Cube was standing right next to you? I mean, the guy’s not exactly the sort that blends in. And even if you didn’t know it was Cube, wouldn’t you pick up on the fact that the waiter, whose face is slightly obstructed by a tray of champagne glasses, hasn’t moved for five minutes? It’s a sort of invasion of personal space, and surely somebody as savvy as the Secretary of Defense would catch on after two or three minutes.

2. Shouldn’t your plans to kill the President and overthrow the government be discussed somewhere a little more, you know, private? I mean, here they are in the middle of a D.C. party, having to speak up in order to be heard over the din of the crowd. Seems a little on the sloppy side, yes? Imagine being at one of these affairs, talking to the aide to the Representative from Toledo, and all of a sudden, you hear from behind you: “I say, Percy, old chap! What I’m planning, you see, is to assassinate the President, the Vice-President, and the Speaker of the House, whereupon I will be named the new leader of our country! It’s a veritable coup, I tell you! Mwah!” And all you can think is, “Is this guy nuts, or what??” That, and “Hey! Is that Ice Cube?”

As you may have guessed by now, “State of the Union” is as dumb as a rock and twice as thick. It’s being promoted as being from the director of “Die Another Day,” but considering how that movie’s viewed by many as the worst Bond pic in decades - the one that pretty much derailed the franchise and caused it to go into an uncertain hiatus - maybe that’s not a good thing to mention in your ad campaign.

The film, as I’m sure you know, is the sequel to the 2002 action calamity “XXX,” which tried its hardest to turn Vin Diesel into the James Bond of a new generation. Triple-X was an extreme sports numbskull recruited to be a secret agent; it was “Mission: Impossible” by way of a Mountain Dew commercial. And yes, it even managed to be funnier than it sounds (mainly thanks to Diesel’s habit of wearing enormous fur coats).

When the studio realized that nobody really wanted to see Vin Diesel movies any more (unless, that is, he’s a Navy SEAL babysitting a family of brats, comedy ensuing), they decided it was time to pull a history change of Greedo-shot-first proportions on us. No, you fools, XXX wasn’t the nickname of the Diesel character, but was instead a codename given to every extra-super-double-secret agent recruited by Samuel L. Jackson’s elite underground spy network. Don’tcha get it? Every movie, we get a new Triple-X! And don’t ask us questions, that’s the way it’s always been.

Right, and I’ve got a bridge you might like to buy.

Anyway, XXX Mark II (XXXX, maybe?) is Cube, playing a soldier and former member of Jackson’s old squad. He’s now in jail for punching out Dafoe way back when, or something, and when the old squad starts getting killed off one by one, and when Jackson’s extra-super-double-secret underground headquarters is invaded by high tech ninjas or whatever (don’t ask), Jackson decides it’s time to find somebody with “more attitude” than Vin Diesel’s fur coat-wearing, bungee-jumping hipster. (Side note: Diesel’s XXX apparently got killed off in between movies. Don’t ask any more questions; the screenwriters couldn’t think up any actual answers.)

Springing Cube out of jail and telling him he’s the next XXX (another side note: if you’re going to be a secret agent, shouldn’t you not tattoo your code name on the back of your neck??), the good guys start tracking down Willem Dafoe; we know he’s the bad guy because Sean Bean isn’t in the cast, making Dafoe baddie by default.

As following the plot is an exercise in futility, it’s best to sit back and watch “State of the Union” self-destruct on a more scene-by-scene basis. Consider the scene that has Cube impersonating a Southern Baptist minister - since when did he turn into Fletch? Consider the scene that has Jackson using the name “Jonathan Cochrane” when impersonating a lawyer, only to have ace NSA agent Scott Speedman pause (you can almost hear him think “wait… just… a… minute…”) and then declare, “Johnny Cochrane!” (Followed by, “oh, you sly devil,” if only in thought.) Consider the scene that has the President putting on his glasses, just so he can take them off five seconds later in that dramatic glasses-removing way. Consider the scene that uses a remake of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” in a scene that has Ice Cube actually trying to defend the Powers That Be. I fear the irony may have been lost on the filmmakers on this one.

Most of “State of the Union” is spent in lifeless action sequences that ramble on far longer than they should, aided by laughably bad CGI and a complete absence in logic. If the “XXX” series has succeeded in anything, it’s in making explosions boring. Slogging through this sequel would be a major chore… if not for the fact that it’s so downright hilarious. There’s not a single scene in this film that doesn’t provide at least one unintentional guffaw.

Now that the new premise of the “XXX” series has been established, the film ends with Jackson declaring he has the “perfect candidate” for their next choice. Someone “even further off the grid.” Someone completely unexpected. Please, please, please let it be Ben “Cooter” Jones.

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