XXX - State of the Union DVD: Review By Evan "Mushy" Jacobs

  • OVERALL
    2.5
    WORTHY
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE FEATURE
I go back and forth with how I feel about Ice Cube being in XXX: State of the Union. Basically, I was taken aback at first mainly because I wondered if him being in this film compromised his street credibility. Then after screening Are We There Yet? I decided that despite my thoughts, I think the whole goal all along is to show that there shouldn't be any barriers to what people can do. Regardless of how good or bad I might think it ultimately is, the fact of matter is that Ice Cube is a very mainstream star and as such he's going to do mainstream movies. Is he still credible? Sure. Is he still has dangerous as he was when I first heard the NWA records? That remains to be seen. Is he relevant? Of course. Case closed.

Other then the fact that the first movie made a lot of money, I don't think there was a really a need or a call for XXX: State of the Union. In this incarnation there is a coup afoot in the White House. Ice Cube plays Darius Stone, a reckless criminal with an affinity for extreme sports. Through a series of events he ends up being the person called upon to save the United States. While I feel that the plot idea was interesting, I just don't think this is a very good movie. They say in the supplemental materials that they wanted this movie to be a thriller yet the DVD cover gives away who the bad guy is!!! While I didn't think that XXX: State of the Union was horrible (it's action scenes, the way it was shot and everything else was very big and appropriate to the material) I just didn't think it was that good either.
THE EXTRAS
Commentary Tracks

The viewer has the ability to watch this film with a filmmaker's commentary or a visual effects commentary. These are actually the best things about this DVD. I just love hearing how they breakdown making an action movie. So many times you watch a film and you have no idea either A) how an effect was achieved or B) that what you have seen was even an effect at all. These tracks are both very good for breaking down the nuts and bolts of what went into getting XXX: State of the Union on the big screen. I particularly liked hearing from Lee Tamahori simply because he seems to go about his job with a real sense of detached, businesslike elegance. It's always nice to hear someone like him explain things because they make their work seem effortless.

Featurettes

This disk is loaded with interesting featurettes which in my opinion could end up being this DVDs saving grace. We have the "From Convict to Hero" Making Of, "Top Secret Military Warehouse" and "xXx: According to Ice Cube", among others. I honestly found these to be better then the movie itself. It is always enjoyable hearing an actor talk about their "motivation" when playing a role. Interestingly enough, Ice Cube actually seemed a bit off kilter when talking about this movie. As if he either wasn't real comfortable with it or he had a problem with the production that was carrying over into the supplemental materials video shoot.

Deleted Scenes

This scenes can be screened with an optional Director's commentary. The scenes are "Bama Shoots Wounded Agent", "President Gives Speech At Lincoln Memorial" and "Steele's team operates the robot." I skimmed through these scenes as I felt that at 101 minutes, XXX: State of the Union, was probably a tad longer then it should have been. Again, Tamahori saved the day for me as I found his commentary for the deleted scenes, and his explanations for why some of them were cut to be very interesting. You always hear about the choices made in the editing room and this must drive studiohead's crazy because I am sure they wonder why the scene was shot to begin with.

THE VIDEO
2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. I may not think this is a very good movie but I will say that it looks like a very good movie. XXX: State of the Union is big. I mean really big and Tamahori and Co. have gone out of their way, it seems, to capture it in the best way possible. While it is shot at times like an MTV music video, it still retains enough of the action devices so it doesn't fall into the trap of having the whole movie look that way. There are the obligatory slow motion shots, the close-up shots of Ice Cube realizing something that will inevitably save his life, the explosions, etc. They talk about wanting to do things in this film that hadn't been done on screen before, but I really never thought that when I was watching XXX: State of the Union. In fact, this movie seems like an amalgamation of all the typical action scenes we have come to witness in today's movie. The only thing different about them to me is the fact that you have Ice Cube doing the scenes and I hadn't really seen him in a role like this before.

THE AUDIO
Dolby Digital. Mastered in High Definition. English 5.1 (Dolby Digital), French 2.0 (Dolby Surround). With the big images come the big sounds and I am very thankful that the audio design on this movie was not reminiscent of a Tony Scott movie. Now don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of Mr. Scott's work, when the big movies are coming from him. I don't like to see the imitations because that's exactly what they seem like. There is nothing worse then seeing an action movie and nodding off during the dialogue (or "character building") parts because the action scenes have left you so thoroughly worn out. XXX: State of the Union did a very good job mixing the big moments with the small so that the film ran on an even keel. It wasn't a nonstop barrage of action (which when done well can be nothing short of exhilarating), but it wasn't an actor's piece either. I never found myself looking at the clock wondering when the movie would be over, but when it ended I didn't look at the clock and think, "Where did all the time go?"
THE PACKAGE
Ice Cube, Scott Speedman and a girl I thought was Vinessa Shaw (but is actually Sunny Mabrey) adorn this cover. Ice Cube holds a big rifle and in the the background military jets descend upon the White House. The red, black and white imagery adds a sense of impending doom to the cover making it seem like it might have been more appropriate for a Tom Clancy movie. The back features another shot of military jets moving toward the White House and some more action shots from the movie. There is a too revealing description of what XXX: State of the Union is about, an extras listing, a cast list and tech specs. All in all this seems like solid packaging although something tells me there is going to be a rerelease of this DVD and that's when they're going to bring the big guns out.
THE FINAL WORD
If you are looking for a pure action experience, which doesn't seem to have much regard for the plot or the plausibility of a majority of the devices it is putting forth, then XXX: State of the Union should be right up your alley. If you aren't that "into" action and like your films to be quieter then I suggest renting or buying something else. My main reason for initially avoiding this movie when it came out was the fact that it looked like an overblown action vehicle with not a lot under the hood. I was pleasantly surprised by the performances of Ice Cube, Xzibit, Scott Speedman and Willem Dafoe. While not anything that the Academy is going to be doting on, I think these actors did their best with that they were given.

At the end of the day, movies like this are made for a pure, cinematic, big screen experience. To be watched and enjoyed on home theater systems the world over. In that regard XXX: State of the Union can be considered a success. As for the movie itself... I think I've said enough.

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