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XXX: State of the Union (Special Edition)

 

Rating: PG-13

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: July 26, 2005
Review posted: July 12, 2005

 

Reviewed by Dennis Landmann

 

SYNOPSIS

 

Ice Cube stars as Darius Stone, a thrill-seeking troublemaker whose criminal record and extreme sports obsession make him the perfect candidate to be the newest xXx agent. He must save the U.S. government from a deadly conspiracy led by five-star general and Secretary of Defense George Deckert (Willem Dafoe). Only a renegade xXx agent like Stone has the Xtreme skills to stop Deckert's dangerous military splinter group from taking over the government in America's capital.

 

CRITIQUE

 

This sequel to the successful first movie did not do well at the box office (in fact it tanked pretty bad), but these days the home entertainment market is booming. I didn't see this in theaters for obvious reasons, but seeing it for free on DVD wasn't half as bad. There's a lot of action in this movie, and while some of it is over the top, the other half is quite imaginative, and therefore exciting to watch. Lee Tamahori knows action as he proved in Die Another Day, but here he is a little stuck on a mediocre script.

 

In terms of the plot, the idea sounds pretty interesting and screenwriter Simon Kinberg (Mr. & Mrs. Smith) explores it in both good and bad ways. Some scenes move really well, such as when xXx goes back to the NSA underground facility, works undercover at a party attended by officials and senators, and tracks down one of Deckert's aircraft carriers in order to foil the Secretary's plans. A cool action scene involves xXx escaping from the aircraft carrier in a tank, but when he jumps off the ship and evades bullet fire by soliders the action takes too much liberty (he's a skilled solider himself as he demonstrated, but getting away this easily simply by not getting hit by bullets makes him too lucky).

 

Ice Cube makes a good impression in the movie in the action scenes but some of his acting is stiff and overly serious. It also doesn't help when his dialogue sounds cliché sometimes. Co-stars Willem Dafoe and Samuel L. Jackson do their best with their roles, but Dafoe is underwritten as most bad guys are. Scott Speedman is likeable as the NSA agent who assists xXx late in the movie. The special effects in the movie look pretty good but you'll notice them easily. Cinematography by David Tattersall and production design by Gavin Bocquet are very good, and Marco Beltrami's score is familiar yet works well for the action scenes.

 

THE VIDEO

 

Sony presents XXX: State of the Union in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. A very good presentation with great, vivid colors, and good definition and detail. Black levels and dark tones look good, and the picture looks sharp most of the time. Some edge enhancement is present, as well grain in several scenes, but it doesn't distract too much. Optional subtitles include English and French.

 

THE AUDIO

 

Sony presents XXX: State of the Union in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. Dialogue sounds clear and is easy to understand. The music, score and sound effects are presented very well through a nice surround experience with the rear speakers sounding off nicely. A French 2.0 dub track is also available.

 

THE EXTRAS

 

There is audio commentary on the movie with director Lee Tamahori and screenwriter Simon Kinberg, and a second track with visual effects supervisor Scott Farrar and the CG supervisor.

 

From Hero to Convict: The Making of XXX: State of the Union features interviews with Lee Tamahori, producer Arne L. Schmidt, Simon Kinberg, Willem Dafoe, Ice Cube, Samuel L. Jackson, Scott Speedman, Sunny Mabrey, and Xibit, and is presented in two parts: Boot Camp (21:20) recalls the project history briefly and continues to making the movie with plenty of on-set footage and interviews. Special Ops (27:26) features interviews with the movie’s two technical advisors and focuses on getting the details right in terms of the military aspect and fight training for the actors, showing the progression of special effects sequences with interviews from several SFX people, discussing the sound effects, and showing the recording of the movie’s score.

 

Next are three featurettes. Bullet Train Breakdown (5:40) is just what it says; choose among three different views of production from storyboards, pre-visualization, and actual filming of the sequence (with green screen in the background cut to the movie’s score). Top Secret Military Warehouse (8:33) discusses the military weapons and gadgets features in the movie, and the look of the special ops costumes. XXX: According to Ice Cube (5:25) focuses on Ice Cube in the movie.

 

Lastly there are 3 deleted scenes running approximately three minutes. Only one of them is partially interesting, a scene with the President and Willem Dafoe’s character discussing a situation in front of the Lincoln monument.

 

Several trailers round out the extras.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

This is not a bad movie, just a terribly mediocre action flick with a few standout action scenes and a good idea that is explored through a screenplay marred by slow scenes, some weak dialogue, and limitations of being a sequel and not an original movie. I am recommending this DVD solely on the fact that the extras are quite good and partially on the excitement of seeing the action scenes in the movie. If you don't get your hopes up you could enjoy this movie on a mediocre level like I did.

 

VERDICT: RECOMMENDED

 

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:: DVD Ratings

 

THE MOVIE

6

THE VIDEO

8

THE AUDIO

8

THE EXTRAS

7

OVERALL

7

 

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