Vin Diesel thought that he was starting a franchise - the new James Bond, maybe - with "XXX", a movie that dealt with an extreme sports rebel being picked by a secretive branch of the government to try and become a super spy. Diesel took the part instead of starring in another "Fast and the Furious", but when it came to a sequel, Diesel had a change of heart, and jumped ship for a "Pitch Black" sequel instead.
As the sequel opens, a character briefly notes that Diesel's character didn't make it. The secret farm base of the secret organization has just been taken out, and the leader (Samuel L. Jackson) of said organization notes that they need another deep cover operative - another XXX. They end up breaking out a prisoner (Ice Cube) for the job. The bad guy this time around is evil Secretary of Defense Deckert (Willem Dafoe, now easily able to get paychecks for phoning it in as the villian), who plans to overthrow the president, framing up someone else in the process.
Directed by Lee Tamahori, who proved himself capable of directing drama in "The Edge", but not action with the Bond picture "Die Another Day", makes the action sequences the stars of the picture, to the point where I'm surprised that the stars weren't given below-the-line billing on the poster. The screenplay barely manages to make characters one-dimensional, and the plot's nonsense. Although there's always the argument given that these kinds of movies aren't supposed to be plot-heavy, some of the best action movies of the last 10 years have found a way to be a strong mixture of script and stunts. Beyond that, some of the CGI effects here are pretty lackluster, considering the kind of budget the picture is working with.
The performances aren't great; while I've liked Ice Cube in other movies, his "attitude" here could easily be mistaken for boredom. Samuel L. Jackson and Willem Dafoe can be counted on for better, and seem to know throughout this picture that they're capable of it. The original "XXX" wasn't anything particularly great, but it was mindless fun at times. The sequel is just a mindless time waster, and actually makes the original look a little better by comparison.
VIDEO: "XXX: State of the Union" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 2.40:1 (AVC/1080p) widescreen. While the presentation quality is an improvement over the previously released DVD Special Edition, some noticable concerns are spotted at times. On a positive note, sharpness and detail are certainly above-average throughout much of the running time, save for some slightly softer-looking moments.
What's really a bit disappointing are the faults with the transfer, which include several instances of noticable edge enhancement, as well as visible noise in a few scenes. The print also showed some minor specks and marks on rare occasions throughout the film. Colors looked bright, rich and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults. Overall, as high-def transfers go, this one was just a touch above average, as while there were aspects that excelled, other aspects of the presentation were rather lackluster.
SOUND: The film's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 presentation, as expected, brought out the surrounds to deliver a constant assault of sound effects and score (although I have to say this is the worst score I've heard from composer Marco Beltrami.) Bassy and dynamic without being overwhelming, the audio consistently keeps the viewer immersed in the on-screen action. Dialogue remained crisp and clear above the explosions, as well. The Dolby TrueHD presentation offers tighter, deeper bass than the DVD's Dolby Digital presentation. Action scenes also sounded clearer and more distinct on the Dolby TrueHD presentation.
EXTRAS: Two commentaries (filmmaker's commentary, visual effects commentary), "Making Of", deleted scenes, previews, "Bullet Train" effects breakdown, "the Secret Military Warehouse" and "XXX: According to Ice Cube".
Final Thoughts: "XXX: State of the Union"" has a mildly entertaining action scene or two, but other than that, the screenplay doesn't have much else to offer besides a slight story and thinly written characters. As for acting, everyone involved has been better elsewhere. The Blu-Ray offers somewhat better image quality and audio, as well as the same supplements. Recommended for fans who don't already own the prior DVD.
The Film C-