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April 2005

By Wilson Morales

XXX: State of the Union

Distributor: Columbia Pictures & Revolution Studios
Director: Lee Tamahori
Producer: Neal H. Moritz
Screenwriter: Simon Kinberg
Director of Photography: David Tattersall
Composer: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Ice Cube, Samuel L. Jackson, Willem Dafoe, Scott Speedman, Nona Gaye, & Xhibit



When the first XXX opened up a few years ago, it was built around Vin Diesel and his physique. He was looked upon as the next huge action star. The plot was convoluted but the action scenes were simply "out of the world". There were enough unbelievable stunts that you could assume his character was Superman without the cape mixed in with a little James Bond flavor. The result of the film was good enough to be financially successful despite mixed reviews. It came out during the summer and that's when most of the brains are checked in at the door. Success means sequel, but also change. Ice Cube has been a critical and financial success in his own right with his few films. Even with his last film, "Are We There Yet?", despite its poor reviews, the film did very well at the box office. People love to see his films and he brings in a certain type of respect and creditability to his roles. With Diesel out of the sequel, and Cube in, one would think that the film would be better judging by the talent. The return of Samuel L. Jackson's character, Augustus Gibbons, is a welcome pleasure. That said, "XXX: State of the Union" is a solid improvement over the original in that the action scenes are deft-defying and explosive, but the writing still lacks the words that would put the film in the company of James Bondesque films. Cube and Jackson make a deadly combination.

Opening scenes have a team of commandos covertly breaking into the chambers of Augustus Gibbons (Jackson)'s lair and wiping out his entire team before he escaped by the skin of his teeth. Sensing there's been a leak within his group, Gibbons goes to the one guy who may be able to help him out, although he can't trust him, Darius Stone (Cube). Stone used to be under Gibbons's command and is currently serving jail time for military defiance and also for striking his former leader and current Secretary of Defense George Deckert (Dafoe). Helping Stone escape, Gibbons brings Stone up to speed with what's going on, the two learn that Deckert is plotting to overthrow the government in the nation's capital and the they have to stop him before his next attack plans begins. Stone brings in some of his old crew from his street days to lend him a hand, which includes Zeke (Xhibit) and his old girlfriend Lola (Gaye). Together this small team of muscle and power work together to go up every facet of the government and a stop a coup from taking place.

Just like the original "XXX", this film offers a lot of action scenes, gun play and "get out of town" unbelievable stunt maneuvers, but Cube and Jackson seem to have fun playing their parts. For Cube, it's a chance to let loose and be crazy after doing message-theme films like "Are We There Yet?" (if you can find it) and the Barbershop films. Cube is a natural in playing characters that's from the hood and it's no different here. His scenes with fellow rapper Xhibit shows the range that each has as an actor and how much of a difference there is when you get more work. Xhibit, at some point in this business, will have his day in the sun, but for now, his efforts are worth noting. What can we say about the hardest working man in this business, Samuel L. Jackson? This brother won't let up. This is his third film this year after "Coach Carter" and "In My Country", and he still is able to change hairstyles and range and be the same the person we know and respect. With a gun in hand and a scar of his face, Jackson brings a level of authority similar to the character M of the James Bond films; which is fitting since Director Tamahori directed the last Bond film. Tamahori has made an entertaining action packed film filled with car chases and humor to keep you satisfied. With the exception of a bullet train at infinite speed and the dialogue, which gave Speedman and Dafoe the worst lines of the film, the film is appealing because Cube and Jackson are worth watching.