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Movie Mom

XXX: State of the Union

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Profanity:Brief strong language, one f-word
Nudity/Sex:Mild sexual references
Alcohol/Drugs:None
Violence/Scariness:Constant action-style violence, shooting, explosions, fighting, many characters killed
Diversity Issues:A theme of the movie
Movie Release Date:2005
C+
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
Profanity: Brief strong language, one f-word
Nudity/Sex: Mild sexual references
Alcohol/Drugs: None
Violence/Scariness: Constant action-style violence, shooting, explosions, fighting, many characters killed
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Movie Release Date: 2005

Can we ever see Ice Cube as a gangsta again after Barbershop and Are We There Yet?

Do we want to?

Ice Cube is a fine actor who can do a lot with a strong script (Boyz n The Hood and Three Kings). But he seems to be phoning this performance in between development deals. Since the writer and director appear to be on automatic pilot, too, even a movie that has no aspirations beyond generic guns and explosions multiplex fodder manages to disappoint.

The original XXX, starring Vin Diesel, was a sort of James Bond movie on crack, with an extreme sports nut brought in on a spy mission for “deep cover agents with special skills.” It had some cool stunts and got the job done.

In this sequel, as soon as Agent Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson, returning from the first film) explains that the first Triple X is dead so they need to go off the grid again to find someone even tougher, it’s clear that this is less script than set-up. When Willem Dafoe turns up as the Secretary of Defense to give a report to the President (Peter Strauss), it’s clear that he’s not in the movie to be a second-tier good guy. I’d say it was less a movie than a cross between a rap song and a computer game, but it is not nearly as well-written as either. There’s no wit or imagination, just the thump thump thump of exposition and explosions.

Yes, there are barked orders about breaching the perimeter and guys in serious-looking black hoods with fancy guns and other toys, a handy nerdish hacker, and big shots asking each other “Who the hell is this guy?” The new Triple X is a former Navy Seal serving a 20-year prison sentence who gets sprung for a top-secret mission. The good guys have become the bad guys, so we need some bad guys to be the good guys.

There are competently filmed stunts and explosions at a variety of Washington DC locations, including a non-existent bullet train. There are a couple of good lines, including quotes from Thomas Jefferson and Tupac, and it is fun to see Ice Cube go undercover as two characters that play off of white expectations. But the movie has an unpleasantly sour tone that is too far off the grid to give the stunts any narrative or emotional heft. When Triple X is explaining to a friend why he should help save the day, the best he can do is tell him that they are fighting for the right to keep stealing cars. And the movie’s treatment of a standard-issue rich blonde ice queen in a slinky suit and a fast car is so rap-style misogynistic that it takes you out of the story. Nona Gaye (Ali) tries to channel Pam Grier as the woman Triple X can’t forget, and her scenes with Ice Cube have enough warmth and sparkle to remind you how much the rest of the film is lacking. Even with all the pounding music and ear-splitting explosions, this XXX should be rated zzzzzzz.

Parents should know that the movie has non-stop PG-13-style violence, with a lot of explosions and shoot-em-ups. Many characters are killed. Characters use brief bad language (one f-word, a few b-words) and there are some mild sexual references, including a prison rape joke.

Families who see this movie should talk about why Darius did not follow orders and how he decided what mattered to him. Characters use different arguments to try to persuade each other in this movie. Which are the strongest? Why?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original, with Vin Diesel as the first Triple X and the classic The Dirty Dozen.

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