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 mindless, and actually makes the original look improved.
VIDEO: "XXX: State of the Union" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Video in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation, aside from a couple of minor concerns, is a strong effort from the studio. Sharpness and detail are consistently first-rate, with no softness or other concerns regarding definition.
A couple of slight moments of edge enhancement are present, but that's about all there is in terms of problems. No pixelation, print flaws or other concerns are seen. Colors looked rich, vibrant and well-saturated, with no faults.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation, as expected, brought out the surrounds to deliver a constant assault of sound effects and score. 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.
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" has a mildly entertaining action scene or two, but it's obvious that the action is the lead here, as the screenplay doesn't provide much of a base, with thin characters and not much of a story. As for acting, everyone involved has been better elsewhere. Sony Pictures Home Video has provided an admittedly nice DVD for the film, however, with very good audio/video quality and a good helping of supplements.