xXx: State of the Union (2005)

(Netflix Streaming, February 2016) I remember that xXx: State of the Union got terrible reviews upon release, but watching the film lately is enough to make anyone wonder why the reviewers were so vexed. Of course, time has been kind to lead actor Ice Cube, who seems even more iconic today thanks to his anointment in Straight Outta Compton: Part of State of the Union’s charm comes from seeing his gruff demeanour clashing with the usual nonsense of a typical dumb action movie. It’s worth highlighting that Ice Cube has personality and the film distinguishes itself (even a decade later) by featuring it as best it can. There is some daring in State of the Union’s premise of a coup building against the US government, and a sprinkling of action sequences (especially a purely nonsensical but fast-paced bullet-train sequence at the climax of the film) are enough to keep things interesting to the end. Under Lee Tamahori’s direction, State of the Union is not a film that takes itself seriously, and so becomes one of those movies in which absurdities act as features rather than problems. It’s easy to feel some odd affection for it, especially if you’re already an Ice Cube fan and find much postmodern fun in contemplating an NWA founding member saving the US government from rogue elements.

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