As a standalone film, xXx: State of the Union is a mediocre action film best suited to gather dust beside old Lorenzo Lamas flicks at Blockbuster. Because it’s a sequel to a highly promising franchise starter, the film is just disheartening.The original xXx was an energetic and exotic movie for those who thought James Bond deserved to be placed in a retirement facility. xXx introduced us to Xander Cage, a character that was part Mickey Rourke and part Tony Hawke, and critics and fans alike anticipated a sequel that would continue to follow the exploits of this vigorous character.
No such luck: Xander is dead folks.
In xXx: State of the Union, An unidentified military splinter group led by a disgruntled soldier (Willem Defoe, who clearly has not learned a damn thing about sequels without stars from Speed 2: Cruise Control) is conspiring to overthrow the government. They have killed Xander Cage and attacked the National Security Agency. Agent Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) must recruit a new renegade warrior, so he springs ex-navy seal, Darius Stone (Ice Cube), from prison to fight the baddies and keep our nation safe.
My guess is that Vin Diesel’s departure from the franchise was his own choice and could not be helped, but casting Ice Cube as a replacement? Come on! Diesel is a dynamic action hero. Ice Cube is a bland, lifeless actor.
For the majority of the movie, Ice Cube wears the same dour expression pasted to his face. He just looks uncomfortable and a little lost. Also, Ice Cube isn’t exactly in peak physical shape, and spotting his stunt doubles is really easy. The only similarity that Cube and Diesel share is that they both appear to have ditched their birth name and pulled their new ones out of a hat.
While the first film took our hero to mysterious foreign locations, xXx: State of the Union sticks firmly to clichéd locals in the United States. There’s the secret underground base covered from floor to ceiling with computer screens. There’s the chop shop in the inner city complete with booming bass and scantily dressed silicon girls sitting on every horizontal surface. There’s the capitol building, a locale with apparently no security system in place whatsoever. (A few metal detectors would have been enough to derail the villains’ plans)
The only action sequence that offers a glimpse of creativity is a tank battle on an aircraft carrier. Granted, a tank battle inside a ship isn’t exactly the smartest thing our hero could provoke, but it’s still a fun (and too brief) moment.xXx: State of the Union ends with NSA people discussing who the new “xXx” is going to be. Clearly Sony Pictures plans on keeping this franchise alive, while jettisoning Ice Cube, and this is just plain rude. Even George Lazenby wasn’t fired from the role of James Bond until after his film tanked.