XXX: THE NEXT LEVEL: DVD
Agent Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) and his new agent Darius Stone (Ice Cube) must track a dangerous military splinter group, led by ex General and now Secretary of Defence, George Deckert (Willem Dafoe), that is conspiring to overthrow the U.S. Government with a violent coup in Washington.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Improbable or audacious? Whatever you think of the plot - and with the US as conflicted as it is in its relations with the rest of the world, it may be less audacious than it appears - it gives the filmmakers all the high profile elements needed for a major action film in the 'special agent' sub-genre. While the action is entertaining and often xxxtreme, there is not quite enough time left for the filling out of character that would help us feel the sense of dread the scenario calls for.
This applies to all the main players, including Willem Dafoe's villain and the hapless US President. Ice Cube delivers the package he's hired for, but all the characters are more like chess pieces in a master plan than three dimensional human beings.
For action fans there is an almost endless series of sequences to keep the tension high, and the only flaw in the sense of ultra-dynamic reality is the President's Bullet Train, which is a great concept but the CGI is not as invisible as it could be.
On the DVD, you can go into the making of this sequence in detail, with Lee Tamahori talking you through the pre-visualisation, and see the story-boards, pre-vis and final cut in three screens at the same time. It's one of the three extra behind the scenes featurettes on the disc; the others are also very much for the film's target market (young males): the filmmakers introduce the one devoted to the top secret military warehouse in the film, in which they reveal that after a tour of sensitive US military bases, they went away and dreamt up what may be on the drawing boards. The third is 'xXx According to Ice Cube'.
For the politically aware cynic, there is the throw-away line from Ice Cube's Agent xXx, Darius Stone; "The future of the world is in the hands of a bunch of hustlers and thieves," referring to the rag team he has assembled to save the US and the world. To which young secret agent operative Kyle Steele (Scott Speedman) mutters: "Why should this night be any different..."
On its own terms and for its target market xXx2 delivers what is expected, although the gadget-gizmo-armour-hardware-hot-vehicle driven franchise seems unable to refresh itself enough any other way than by enlarging the items in question. Whether this is enough to jump the film into a broader, or at least older audience, is also in question; especially with that much rap on the soundtrack, however appropriate.
Of course the DVD goes even deeper into this world of macho-movie making. Frankly, the commentary from Tamahori and Kinsberg really makes the film more interesting, especially if you're interested in filmmaking per se. It reveals not only how they did it, but why. Tamahori is crisp and clear, adding context and exposition to the action. Kinsberg adds the writer's voice and explains how they wanted to make the film a full on action film, but move it a tad closer to political thriller territory.
Published September 8, 2005
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XXX: THE NEXT LEVEL: DVD (MA)
CAST: Ice Cube, Willem Dafoe, Samuel L. Jackson, Xzibit,
PRODUCER: Gillian Libert, Neal H. Moritz, Arne Schmidt
DIRECTOR: Lee Tamahori
SCRIPT: Simon Kinberg characters by Rich Wilkes)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Tattersall
EDITOR: Mark Goldblatt, Todd E. Miller, Steven Rosenblum
MUSIC: Marco Beltrami
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Gavin Bocquet
RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Releasing
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 28, 2005
PRESENTATION: Widescreen (2.40:1/ 16:9 enhanced); DD 5.1; languages: English, English Descriptive Audio, Hungarian
SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by director Lee Tamahori and writer Simon Kinsberg; commentary by VFX crew; "Convict to hero" making of doco; deleted scenes; three behind the scenes faturettes
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Home Ent.
DVD RELEASE: September 7, 2005
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays in February, following a FREE introductory screening on February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.