XXX & XXX: State of the Union (Review)

XXXIt seems the world of shady terrorists and evil psychotics has changed over the years. No longer do they pivot on a moving chair while stroking a cat or look menacingly over a martini glass summing up their enemy.

Yep it seems that even terrorists and evil doers in general have let their standards slip.

The result? Immaculately fitted white-suited secret agents are no longer the go to guys to foil diabolical plots. Charming, handsome and debonair gents sporting nifty mustaches and well concealed gadgets cannot get the job done.

Who can one turn to in these troubled times…?

Enter Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), a heavy set, heavily tattooed X-Treme sports wunderkind and all round moron with a huge following and an attitude so anti-establishment that it simply must have its own endorsement deal.

Cage – or ‘X’ as he is often referred to – is identified by Agent Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) as an antidote to the whitebread superspy – an unhinged, uncontrollable loose cannon with street smarts and cred to spare. Of course none of the ‘Fat Cats’ understand X or even want him on the payroll. Only Gibbons is hip to the groove, only he understands that sometimes crazy is the best way… (I nearly vomited writing that bit.)

After an initiation/thinning out process that leaves dozens dead Gibbons hand picks X to head into Europe to infiltrate a crime gang or alternative types lead by a greasy Euro-Savage Garden bad guy and find out just what these nefarious metal heads are up to. Within minutes X gets to Europe, blends in and uncovers the truth, all while breaking the rules constantly…

While on the job X manages to indulge in motorbike fights, he launches a one man snowboard assault on a heavily armed hideout and gives an impassioned speech while grasping an energy drink. It is all very inspiring stuff, and by that I mean I was constantly inspired to turn the DVD player off.

XXX is absolutely riddled with stupidity. Whoever wrote the script should be sent straight to the naughty corner to think about what they did. Perhaps the saddest part is that none of this is tongue in cheek or ironic, even when Diesel is smirking and spouting some of the most inane dialogue this side of a Real Housewives ep you get the feeling that all involved believe this is some form of art.

Of course the soundtrack is chock full of ‘I’m a rebel with a sore throat’ metal and X-Treme type music, and like the X-Treme sports genre itself the film is rife with product placement.

Asia Argento features as a mysterious loner, adding street cred and subtracting personality and talent, Sam Jax sleepwalks through another film selected only to keep his reign as aggregate box office king alive, and the Euro Savage Garden bad guy is as memorable as… well something I can’t remember.

Which brings us to Vin Diesel. I am hard-wired to root for the underdog, I do it in sports, film and life. No-one is better equipped to be an underdog than ol’ Vinnie, with his hangdog looks, glazed expression and awful delivery he is a shoo-in for any number of ‘least likely’ awards. These reasons alone aren’t why I can’t get behind him, it is the undeserved swagger and cockiness that bothers me, the sense that he genuinely feels that he somehow earned all this.

It is in this way that XXX and Vin Diesel are inextricably linked forever, both are flawed, annoying, bloated and ridiculous, somehow both are profitable and popular also. For selfish reasons I sincerely hope this is a result of society getting dumber than me missing the point entirely.

Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. I don’t know if I can handle another two hours of this, my brain cells are already low to begin with. Need… some… energy… drink… Hey whaddya know I think their master plan worked!

XXX: State of the Union

After XXX you would think that the market for no-necked slow-witted muscle-bound multi-hyphenated chowderheads might be a little flat where US national security was concerned. But no apparently not.

The (sort of) smart thing that the filmmakers did was realise that with millions of reality challenged Xtreme doofuses (doofi?) already lined up to check out the sequel, by switching up the lead just a little to appeal to a new demographic they could kill two audiences with one stone – or in this case cinematic bomb.

So in the opening sequence the top secret XXX department has its cover blown and most operatives killed. And by cover I mean the BIG RED BARN that apparently served as a top secret HQ.

With the merciful demise of Vin Diesel, Augustus (Samuel L. Jackson) decides no more adrenaline junkies. He needs a new XXX.

Someone hard. Someone scary. Someone middle aged and a bit fat.

Enter Darius Stone (Ice Cube), a man with the charisma of a baked potato who moves, talks and fights with all the effortless fluidity of a Ken doll.

Can I point out here that I love Ice Cube… at least musically… at least in the 90s… well The Predator album rocked. But Ice Cube is to action heroes what Nicki Minaj is to dignified behaviour and low key deportment. He is as close to a good actor as Kanye West wants to be to the common man.

Gone is the inferior pop-punk soundtrack, replaced with an inferior hip-hop soundtrack, featuring numerous Ice Cube tracks – though none from the 90s… definitely none from The Predator.

And for the next hour plus Darius Stone is apparently out to save the world from bad guys. And let me just say you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Xzibit and Ice Cube save the free world from bad guys.

There are a great many minor peripheral characters who flit in and out of proceedings with nary a moment of relevance, including Willem Dafoe and Scott Speedman as government employees with differing intentions. Sam Jax features a little more in this film, what with his ‘brother’ and all on the poster, but though he gets more onscreen minutes he doesn’t really do much more with them. Thankfully with two African Americans as leads the racial stuff was kept low key, except for one regrettable scene.

The plot is irrelevant but for moving Ice Cube from one pointless action sequence to the next, all the while painting an incredibly unflattering picture of supposed ‘national security’ on all sides.

Despite the misleading title XXX 2 has no sex, no swearing and actually a very low body count. In their place is an ever-fuming Cube, with forced menace and rebellion gushing from his every over-acting pore. Strange that for a man who was in NWA and was self professed as Amerikkka’s Most Wanted couldn’t pull out his Nine and bust a cap on a mofo, or even call someone a mofo for that matter. It seems that instead of a Parental Advisory sticker Ice Cube desperately wanted his one headline performance on film to Sell Out in a big way.

Unfortunately his headline role sucked, which is perhaps why Cube now toils away making the TV show of his kid friendly ‘Are we there yet?’ crap.

Final Rating – 6 / 10. A perfectly predictable follow up to a perfectly predictable original. Why fix something that IS very much broken? At least when that broken shit makes you money that is…

Films like this make me sad for society, not for the violence and stuff, just because people continue to ignore the crappy quality of action movies and make money for studios churning out atrocious products like this.

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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