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xXx: State of the Union(2005)
The winds of political change are rumbling through the halls of the Capitol as a popular President is being targeted for assassination by a radical splinter group of dissenters deep within the United States government. Only two people stand between anarchy and freedom: One of them, Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), has just survived a hit on the National Security Agency's top-secret headquarters and is on the run. The other, a decorated Special Ops soldier, Darius Stone (Ice Cube), sits under close guard in a military prison. Gibbons once again finds himself in need of an outsider and Stone is his man. The new xXx agent must uncover the insurgents from within. It is the nation's only hope to stop the first coup d'état in American history.
For more about xXx: State of the Union and the xXx: State of the Union Blu-ray release, see xXx: State of the Union Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on August 15, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Lee Tamahori
Writers: Simon Kinberg, Rich Wilkes
Starring: Ice Cube, Samuel L. Jackson, Willem Dafoe, Scott Speedman, Peter Strauss, Xzibit
» See full cast & crew
xXx: State of the Union Blu-ray Review
This loud, action-packed extravaganza shines in Blu.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, August 15, 2008
The new xXx has got to be more dangerous, deadlier, more attitude.
Call me a sucker for dumb action, but the xXx movies are two of my favorite guilty pleasures when the mood calls for over-the-top action spectacles. Both Vin Diesel and Ice Cube are fine action stars, and the tongue-in-cheek quality of the movies suits their acting styles and abilities perfectly. I was a bit disappointed when Diesel did not return for the sequel, but Cube proves his worth as a leading action star in xXx: State of the Union. Ice Cube's career has been one that continues to surprise. The rapper's career began with a bang in the critically acclaimed Boyz n the Hood, continued on with a lesser known but entertaining action movie called Trespass, exploded with Friday, and he showed his skills as a first-class actor in the Gulf War heist film Three Kings. Now, Cube delivers the goods as the hard-to-kill and relentless Darius Stone, a former Navy SEAL called upon to foil a military coup of the United States government.
The fate of the free world lies in the hands of a bunch of hustlers and thieves.
When sixteen NSA agents are killed in an ambush at a secret underground facility, the President of the United States, James Sanford (Peter Strauss, License to Wed), proclaims the United States to be in dire need of a new direction, one where the nation reduces its military might and changes from a policy of isolationism to a more globally aware one. His Secretary of Defense, General George Deckert (Willem Dafoe, Clear and Present Danger) takes exception. He publicly supports the President but is secretly planning a series of assassinations during the President's State of the Union address where the death of those ahead of him in the chain of command will ascend him to the Presidency. To flesh out the plot and save the day, a new xXx is needed after Xander Cage, hero of xXx, is killed in an off-screen event. Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson, reprising his role from the first film) recruits former Navy SEAL Darius Stone (Ice Cube) who is serving a lengthy prison sentence for a mutiny he led against Deckert some years ago. It'll take xXx's cunning, skills, and the help of some of his friends to save the President, and the country, from Deckert's planned coup.
I don't play with my life. I'd rather play with yours.
xXx: State of the Union is an action movie lover's delight. For 101 minutes of explosions, guns, fast cars, and death-defying stunts, few movies deliver the goods quite like this one. Needless to say, however, those searching for more intellectually stimulating cinema need look far, far away from the xXx series. The movie stretches the limits of plausibility, defies the laws of physics, and considers providing a name and a few sentences about a character's past sufficient development. One need look no further than the cover art of the movie to realize that nothing more should be expected of the film. The large rifle, the mean-looking hero, the woman with the low-cut dress, and the tanks and jet fighters descending on the U.S. Capital, clues us in that the film is cheesier than the government 18 wheeler seen in the movie. The film's plot, too, lacks any real substance. It presents an interesting premise but it's definitely been haphazardly assembled to suit the action. A tank battle aboard an aircraft carrier, a couple of shootouts in a secret underground facility, a sports car chasing down a bullet train, a daring prison escape, and even a "tank-jacking," are just some of the larger-than-life segments that allow the filmmakers to blow up a bunch of hardware and structures and overwhelm their audience's senses. It's all in good fun, and since the film never takes itself too seriously, we can easily forget its shortcomings and enjoy the full-throttle action spectacle that it delivers.
xXx: State of the Union Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sony delivers xXx: State of the Union to Blu-ray with an impressive 1080p, 2.35:1 transfer. Seeing as how the first xXx featured one of the worst transfers I have seen yet on Blu-ray, I was a bit apprehensive going into this one. However, knowing that Sony is now one of the best studios supporting Blu-ray and offering excellent picture quality on almost all their releases, I predicted a better-than-average picture quality for this film, and I was right. While not quite as demonstration worthy as Transformers or Saawariya (also from Sony), this transfer is nice and clear, one that is well above average for a Blu-ray release, even by today's standards. Colors are excellent, clarity is wonderful, edges are sharp and crisp, and detail is wonderful. There is some grain over the image, but those who dislike grain won't find it in abundance. There are also some small speckles on the print, but like the grain, they are not distracting. xXx: State of the Union features a bright, clean look throughout. Whether we are in the lush green fields of the farm above the underground bunker or in the cold, steely interior of the underground facility itself, the transfer never fails to reveal the finer nuances of every location. Flesh tones are a bit warm and rosy and contrast in general is pumped up in the movie. Facial detail is excellent, as it is in foreground objects. There is never a "reach out and touch it" feel to the transfer, but depth is still solid and the transfer looks good in every lighting condition thrown at it, from bright, sun-drenched exteriors to the dimly lit, smoke-filled interiors of the Capital building during the film's climax. Black levels are good throughout and colors are always rich and vibrant. While not a top-tier transfer, this one is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor, and is a good title to show what an extremely well-done, but not quite perfect, Blu-ray looks like.
xXx: State of the Union Blu-ray, Audio Quality
xXx: State of the Union features a foundation-shaking soundtrack that is as lively and entertaining as the best tracks to date. The beginning of the movie features a fun action sequence that sounds great. The charges that blast holes into the underground base thump and pound with precision and power. Likewise, gunshots are some of the truest and most lifelike I've heard yet, and we can even hear spent shell casings clanking on the floor as they fly from the gun's ejection ports. The "flyboy" (the name given in the commentary track, the device is said to be ten generations head of what's available today) whizzes through your listening room from one speaker to the next, and the general mayhem of the scene fills each speaker with sonic bliss. This is one loud, rambunctious, and immersive sequence, one that sets the stage nicely for what's to come. The prison escape sequence is an all-encompassing listen with deep bass and continuous surround presence that makes for an extremely entertaining segment. Likewise, in chapter three, when xXx goes to the chop shop, the hip-hop music has a quality to it that sounds like you're in a dance club where deep lows rattle the windows and pulsate your eardrums. Listen to the gunshots in chapter four as xXx escapes on a boat and fires his weapon to ignite the fuel lines he's ruptured on the other boats. The gunshot itself shook my sofa, and the subsequent explosion practically ripped the room in two. Fans of the musical group Bond will want to hear their performance in chapter seven. The lively, entertaining music isn't as room-filling as the score, the hip-hop music described above, or the action pieces, but it makes for a winning segment in the movie. The tank battle aboard the carrier in chapter ten is more something you experience rather than listen to. All the superlatives that describe ear-shattering sound applies here, particularly during the scene's climax. xXx: State of the Union is one crazy listen, as active as any track you've heard, and as ridiculous and entertaining as the movie itself.
xXx: State of the Union Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
xXx: State of the Union offers viewers a nice special features package, beginning with two commentary tracks. The first is a filmmaker's commentary track featuring director Lee Tamahori and writer Simon Kinberg. This track is surprisingly informative from beginning to end. Tamahori dominates, not describing what is happening on the screen, but telling us why it is there. He discusses the technology seen in the film, objects and characters that carried over from xXx, the motivations of the characters, the thought process that went into the plot and the intricacies that we may have glossed over while watching, and other useful nuggets of information. Track number two introduces us to visual effects supervisor Scott Farrar and CG supervisor Lindy DeQuattro. This track is a bit more technical in nature and not quite as interesting as the first. We continually hear about how well the effects turned out, who was responsible for which effects, and the like. It's worth a listen if you're a budding special effects artist, but skippable for everyone else.
From Convict to Hero: The Making of 'xXx: State of the Union' (480p, 48:46) is a comprehensive two-part documentary that takes viewers on a journey through the process of making the movie, from the origins of the story and numerous re-writes, the only thing remaining being the basic plot of a military coup. The piece delves into general chatter about the strengths each actor brought to the project, working with the various vehicles in the film, the motivations and characteristics of the characters in the film, the training the actors underwent for their roles, and much, much more. Fans will love this well-made feature. Three featurettes are next. Bullet Train Breakdown (480p, 5:40) is an interactive feature that examines the film's climactic and special effects-laden finale. Viewers can select several different means of watching a segment from the film -- storyboards, a computer-animated version, a green screen version, and the final version as seen in the film. Top Secret Military Warehouse (480p, 8:33) focuses in on the high-tech yet grounded-in-reality military hardware found in the film. xXx: According to Ice Cube (480p, 5:25) is a brief look at the xXx character from various perspectives of the cast and crew, focusing primarily on Ice Cube's comments. Three deleted scenes (480p, 2:25) with optional director commentary are next. Also included are trailers for Redbelt, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder, Resident Evil: Degeneration, and a Sony promotional montage. Finally, the disc is BD-Live (Blu-ray profile 2.0) equipped. Viewers using a Blu-ray player with an Internet connection can view Sony's standard page with trailers, a FAQ, surveys, etc.
xXx: State of the Union Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
xXx: State of the Union is just another in a long line of leave-your-brain-at-the-door action movies. It's flashier, louder, and more robust than most, capable of satiating the appetite of movie fans looking for over-the-top, loud action. Of the latest batch of action movies released by Sony - - 7 Seconds, Half Past Dead, and Maximum Risk, xXx: State of the Union is the most polished, exciting of the bunch both in its action sequences and in its Blu-ray presentation. Sony once again shows why they are one of the best in the business with this release. Featuring near-reference quality picture and sound that may have ranked even higher were I still not glowing in the wake of the wonder that is visual and audio experience that is Transformers, xXx: State of the Union excels as a Blu-ray disc. The package is rounded out nicely by a better-than-expected helping of extras. This disc is recommended for those looking for a ridiculous but entertaining action movie that also shows what Blu-ray is capable of.
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