xXx: State of the Union (5/10)
by Tony Medley
I have no way of knowing
whether, when people saw “Casablanca” (1942) the first time, they
recognized that when Humphrey Bogart said, “Play it, Sam. You played it
for her. You can play it for me,” that the line would be mysteriously
remembered as “Play it again, Sam,” and the scene would become a classic.
But I know that I saw a classic scene tonight between Ice Cube (XXX/Jarius
Stone) and Sunny Mabrey (Charlie). It is so devoid of acting talent that
it should be shown in film school to stand for the proposition that acting
talent is not required to appear in, and star, in a major motion picture.
This film is worth seeing just to watch this scene. They deliver their
lines as if they are reading a cue card and have never before seen the
lines. I was a little surprised one of them didn’t squint to try to see
more clearly what they were required to say. I'm tempted to say that Ice
Cube and Mabrey are to acting what rap is to music, but I won't because
somebody reading this might think rap is melodic with profound lyrics.
Then again, if there is such a person, that person would undoubtedly think
that Ice Cube and Mabrey are in the same realm as Russell Crowe and
It’s difficult to classify the
genre of this movie. A thriller is intelligently written, has a coherent
story and good actors. The viewer is concerned with the protagonist and
fears for his/her safety. Clearly, this is not a thriller. An action movie
is one with terrific, well, action. The stunts are spectacular but are at
least barely believable. Action movies rely on a good director for
success, like “The Bourne Supremacy” directed last year by Paul
Greengrass. Clearly, this is not an action movie. By process of
elimination, this can only qualify for the dumb genre.
There really is not much of a
plot in this, just unbelievable stunts and lots of destruction and noise.
Ostensibly, the evil Secretary of Defense, Octavius Deckert (Willem
Dafoe), is trying to overthrow the government of President James Sanford
(Peter Strauss). Trying to thwart them is Agent Augustus Gibbons (Samuel
L. Jackson), who enlists the aid of Jarius Stone and breaks him out of
prison in a jailbreak that is so over the top that it telegraphs to the
viewer that nothing is to be taken seriously in this film.
Stone is in jail for 20 years
and blames Gibbons. Gibbons visits him and tells him to be in the yard at
a specific time the next day. This leads Stone to engineer the most
preposterous jail break ever filmed, too ridiculous to be described.
From that point it just gets
worse. The unfortunate part of films like this is that there is absolutely
no tension because, despite the millions of bullets being fired at
everyone, none hit the stars and all will end well. So we are left to
watch the firepower and chases and stunts and listen to the noise.
Speaking of noise, the sound
track is atrocious. I’m sure there are people who like rap music, but I’m
not one of them. I wished I had brought ear plugs. But what would you
expect from a movie starring Ice Cube?
There is not even one second in
this film that requires conscious thought, other than to ask yourself,
“how could anybody put this on the screen?” Consistent with the dumb
genre, which is populated by untalented people, there is widespread
mayhem, which contributes to a serious problem of violence in our society
by trivializing injury and death. Dumb as it is, devoid of acting talent
as it is (at the top, at least), it did keep me awake.
April 26, 2005