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XXX 2 : XXX, the next level [Edizione: Francia]
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xXx : The Next Level (Xxx: State Of The Union), 1 DVD, 101 minutes
Un complot se trame au coeur de la Maison Blanche. Plus personne n'est en sécurité... Un seul homme peut sauver les Etats-Unis : Darius Stone, soldat d'élite décoré des forces spéciales, un dur venu du ghetto, expert en armement et en techniques de combat...
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Subtitled "State of the Union," XXX 2 is merely an excuse to watch things blow up. There are the vestiges of a plot involving a coup attempt by the Secretary of Defense, but the story is merely an excuse to get from one silly incident to the next. What's the most inane scene in this movie: the ludicrous prison escape or the final battle sequence which involves the recruiting of a bunch of gang members who all apparently never do drugs and have a vague sense of patriotism? There are probably a dozen other choices.
The intent of the original movie was to showcase extreme sports in a James Bond parody, and it was quite successful. With Vin Diesel's replacement (a perpetually scowling Ice Cube) an ex-SEAL, we basically lose what made the first movie original. Instead, we get a clichéd action flick that has been done better dozens of times.
So maybe movie audiences are getting better at recognizing garbage when it comes out, and maybe that in turn will lead to better movies. Yeah, right.
I was anxious for a sequal, and upon the previews, wondered why Vin did not return. After seeing the film, I soon discovered why (he most likely vomited while reading the script).
The film started with a gripping plot. Gibbon's (Samuel Jackson) branch of the NSA is attacked by unknown high-tech assailents. Most of the branch (made up of Gibbon's military team)has or is in the process of being assasinated. Gibbons decides to go further out of the box, and recruit a member of his former SEAL team (Ice Cube), who is currently searving time in military prison (for insubordination and punching his commander, portrayed by William DeFoe). A prison break is exicuted, and Ice Cube becomes the new xXx.
From therein, the plot and Ice Cube's charactor becomes downright offensive. In a nutshell, William DeFoe's charactor is planning to unseat the president...why? Because the president is a Clintonista liberal who wants to understaaaaand our enemies, turning the other cheek to attacks and showering them with aid. The "evil" DeFoe, instead, wants to strengthen the military enough to be able to properly defend the country (this is evil?!? Apparently so, and why terrorist attacks seem to continue.) DeFoe's charactor believes the only way to do this is to enact a small coup on the capitol building. It's up to a bunch of unrepentant gang bangers/car theives to save America. Unlike the original, where there is charactor developement, it is absent in the sequal. Other than a side National Security head man, no one else seems to care why they are trying to rescue the president, just what's in it for themselves (especially the gang bangers; they are in it for the right to jack cars in D.C.). Oh, yes, did I mention ample gratuitous black on white racist cracks (especilly comapiring an NRA chairman to a Ku Klux Klansman)? I used to like Ice Cube (in movie roles), but after starring in this garbage, well, I have to throw him in the same bin as other Hollywood RDDB's (I'm very surprised someone the caliber of Samuel L. Jackson would appear in something like this unless he was bound by contact).
Well, guys, if you are going to make another xXx similar to this debacle, here's your plot: Right wing radio talk show hosts have invaded the capitol. Gibbons goes further out of the box and springs an ex-Al Quida member from Guantanimo Bay. Together with the help of the ACLU and GLAD, explosions and lawsuits fly and anyone to the right of the loony left is overcome by compassion. The president disolves all the armed forces, and every dictator in the world is so overcome by our understaaaaanding, that they all throw down their guns and step down from power, and the world is at one with peace. Hey, it's in line with the sub plot of this movie, and the way a certain group of writers in Hollywood seem to think. And they wonder why box office reciepts are down. Please excuse me while I snap in "Seargent York" so I can see what Hollywood was at one time and feel like an American again.
There are plenty of explosions, guns-firing, & cars and boats doing ridiculous things. All well and good. Sounds like a James Bond movie (which, you may remember, the original XXX was supposed to be...a Bond for this generation. Ironically, the "old-school" Bond still does better.). But where Bond movies have some charm, some energy and some originality (the silliness factor in Bond movies is always overshadowed by the "how did they think of that" factor), XXX seems confused and needlessly loud. And one of the biggest stunts, involving a speedboat jumping onto a bridge of car traffic comes right from LIVE AND LET DIE...a Bond flick that's what, 30 YEARS OLD? Yes, this movie has a more throbbing sound mix, better crunching of innocent cars, but the basic idea for the stunt has a very tired feel...as does its execution.
The story, about how the Secretary of Defense is planning a coup in which he'll overthrow the compromise-with-terrorists-minded president wants to be thrilling and high-stakes. But not for one minute is the method for accomplishing this overthrow of government believable. An action movie of this ilk MUST make us suspend our disbelief. We never say to ourselves..."yeah, this could happen." But we should say, "I'm gonna enjoy this and see where it takes us." In XXX, the best I usually mustered was..."it's gotta get better, right?"
But plot concerns aside, the movie isn't even fun on an "actors having fun" level. Ice Cube, who can be somewhat charming in the right vehicle, plays a hardened con / former Navy SEAL, who gets a shot at redemption by becoming the new XXX. He looks bored in this first scene, and he looks bored in all subsequent scenes. He's supposed to look tough, world-weary, impervious...at least, I think that's the point. But bored is the best we get. He has some "romantic" scenes with an ex-girlfriend, and the amount of chemistry they generate makes Luke Wilson & Kate Hudson's scenes in ALEX & EMMA look like the hottest romance in film history.
Supporting "acting" is provided by Scott Speedman, looking ridiculous in a semi-heroic, semi-tightass role. Peter Strauss looks the part of president, but his part is underwritten, to say the least. Willem Dafoe is the evil secretary of state (he's evil because he wants to overthrow the government, yes...but the real message here from the filmmakers is that anyone who thinks that we should deal with terrorists by taking the battle to them is evil...real subtle!!). Dafoe is also not the least bit convincing. We all know this guy can play deranged, evil, threatening, whatever. He's often a great actor. But it seems to me that often when he takes these "paycheck" roles...where much isn't expected of him...he delivers NOT MUCH. He's a scary looking guy...but there ought to be more there. Samuel Jackson once again coasts through the kind of part he could do with his eyes closed. He cannot help but bring energy to a scene...he's the best thing in the movie...and that, more than anything else I can say kinda sums up the film. When Samuel Jackson, at his most bored, clichéd and predictable still steals the movie...you know you've got problems.
I can't really think of a reason to spend 2 hours of your time watching this film. It doesn't even deliver on the most basic level.
Rapper/actor Ice Cube is Darius Stone, a Navy Seal who was wrongly imprisoned when he fought a order from his commanding officer to kill innocent people in Kosovo. Stone's former C.O. is now the Secretary Of Defense, and he's got some plans for the nation which aren't too pleasant.
Once again, we have Samuel L. Jackson reprisiing his role as NSA Senior Agent Gibbons, the man who enables Stone to escape from prison after a team of masked (and heavily armed) men stage a raid on Gibbons's NSA headquarters in which several agents are killed. This isn't gonna sit too well with Gibbons, so he wants to know what's going on; hence the need for Stone to do the investigating, and do a bit of butt-kicking along the way.
Needless to say ... a lot of action, including some pretty good stunt work, is packed into the space of 101 minutes, and director Lee Tamahori, who's no stranger to the action movie genre (he directed "Die Another Day" and "Along Came A Spider" -- two other films which fit the "popcorn action movie" genre), and he does a pretty good job of keeping the movie going, even though the plot itself has holes which are big enough to fly a fleet of Blackhawks through.
It's also good to see some familiar faces in this movie, including Willem Dafoe as the Secretary of Defense, Scott Speedman (who's definitely come a long way from his days on the TV series "Felicity") as the NSA agent who always seems to be at least one step behind Stone, and rapper Xzibit turns in a good performance as Zeke, the chop-shop owner who's recruited into the fight to save the nation.
While "XXX: State Of The Union" isn't the world's greatest movie, the DVD has enough goodies to keep you interested, and it's a good companion to the unrated director's cut version of "XXX".
All in all, if you want a movie that's perfect to munch popcorn by, "XXX: State Of The Union" is your kind of movie.