‘xXx2’ has it all. Implausible computer-generated action sequences, clunky dialogue with cringe-worthy one-liners, a secret government agency, a plot to assassinate the president of the United States, plenty of gadgets and cars, bimbos almost busting out of their dresses, and an annoying technical geek sidekick. And, just in case you missed the parallels, our hero decked out in a tuxedo.
Frankly, all that’s missing is the martini shaker – and some finesse.
But ‘xXx2’ is so much more than a B-grade remake of any recent Bond film. Like an old Ford Cortina that’s been pimped-up to resemble a slightly newer Ford Cortina, it’s been souped-up with choice cliches from all your favourite Schwarzenneger/Stallone/van Damme classics. Which means you can once again marvel at a shot of the only-man-who-can-save-the-free-world walking in slow motion against a backdrop of fireballs and bellowing smoke.
And while Ol’ Bond is a little short on the street-cred, the new XXX agent is really down with the ‘hood, calling on his old chop-shop homies when he’s in a tight spot.
With the cliche toll mounting faster than the number of wrecked vehicles agent Darius Stone (Ice Cube) leaves in his wake, it’s not long before ‘xXx2’ explodes into one big yawn of embarrassing banality.
It would be easy to blame the disastrous effects on the limp storyline (NSA Agent Augustus Gibbons breaks former soldier Stone out of prison to thwart a sinister plot to overthrow the US Government) – but that’s what we’ve come to expect from big blockbuster movies like this.
What we don’t expect, though, is badly executed action sequences.
The original ‘xXx’, while no masterpiece, boasted a string of mind-blowing stunts – from snowboarding to motocross – but this sequel can’t even get that right. Despite involving every conceivable vehicle short of a baby’s tricycle, the set-pieces either leave you shrugging – or laughing.
Blame computer graphics if you like; filmmakers think that, because they’re able to create something with computer graphics, we’re going to believe it’s actually possible in the real world. And that we can’t recognise a CG-effect when it blows up in our face.
But even the tank shootout, one of the few sequences not involving bad CG work, is a mess of bad editing, while the street chase to the U.S. Capitol resembles something out of ‘The A-Team’.
Then again, the character of Stone isn’t unlike that of B.A. Baracus – minus the mohawk and bad dress sense, of course. He’s just angry, and that’s it. But, while Vin Diesel gave the original XXX agent some real menace, Cube’s teddy-bear face does nothing to boost his attempts at being bad-as-hell.
Neither do the self-aware lines he’s fed from time to time and seemingly included to show that the filmmakers know their movie’s incredibly silly – not that a few words can fix the damage they’ve done.
Samuel L. Jackson fares better in reprising his role as Gibbons, but he must have eyed the paycheque instead of the script. Willem Dafoe, as the secretary of defence, is wasted too – simply rehashing his Green Goblin performance from ‘Spiderman’.
Director Lee Tamahori may have helmed the so-so ‘Die Another Day’ and the excellent ‘Once Were Warriors’, but in this film his endless roll-out of explosions is unable to hide the fact that this film is the biggest bomb of all.