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xXx 2: The Next Level Review

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Xander Cage is dead. The National Security Agency has been invaded. Augustus Gibbons (Jackson) needs a new xXx, and quick. Step up Darius Stone (Cube), a Special Ops homeboy who uncovers a conspiracy that will flip America inside-out: a radical group is out to assassinate the President...

★★★★★

Somewhere in hollywood, there’s a top-secret turkey farm housing a squawking catastrophe of would-be franchises, hidden in the interests of audience safety. Current inmates include Van Helsing II, Batgirl Returns and Godzilla Vs. Teen Agent. Last year, there was panic when Anacondas escaped. This year, xXx2 has snuck under the wire and, if seen, should be approached with caution.

The original’s mission was to out-do stuffy old Bond by scruffing things up with extreme sports punkery. It featured Vin Diesel sliding down a bannister on a tea-tray; here, you suspect, our hero would rather be eating from one. He’s a big lad, is Mr. Cube, and the xXx-large action suit proves a tight fit. Granted, there’s a certain subversion in having the man who rapped, “I wanna kill Sam, ’cos he ain’t my motherfuckin’ uncle” saving the White House, but with Lee Tamahori’s sledgehammer direction oblivious to tension or spycraft, xXx2 is just another destruction derby fidgeting around for the next toy tank to trash. The franchise has ended up looking like... Steven Seagal.

Scarily, the climax hints at a third outing. May we remind the producers that, alphabetically speaking, xXx: The Next Level is yYy and leave it at that?

Ice Cube struggles with the action in a rap remix of the original’s Limp Bizkit Bond. Big on explosions, low on IQ.