State of the Union [1948]

With a core audience of gameboys and hot-rodders aged 25 and under, xXx: State of the Union is the kind of action movie that requires literally no thought to enjoy. With Vin Diesel's original character just killed in Bora Bora (for details, see the uncensored unrated director's cut of xXx), Ice Cube steps in to play bad-ass, and the whole franchise takes on a hip-hop edge that's almost admirably absurd. The asinine plot is anarchy in Washington, D.C., as an insanely hawkish Secretary of State (Willem Dafoe) plots a Capitol coup just as the President (Peter Strauss, playing it straight) is giving his state-of-the-union address. All of this is prefaced by Cube's recruitment as a former Navy SEAL turned new-xXx, escaping from jail (Dafoe's character put him there), hooking up with an old flame who runs a chop-shop full of the world's hottest wheels, and reuniting with his old commander (Samuel L. Jackson) for a bullet-train climax that feels like Mission Impossible Lite. You could argue that Diesel's the smartest guy in the franchise for cashing out early, but xXx: State of the Union gets the job done in passable fashion, with action veteran Lee Tamahori delivering the goods while he waits for a grown-up script to come along. --Jeff Shannon

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