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FILM : Next Level failed by dumb plot and script.

THE leading man and director in this sequel to the 2002 action-adventure may have changed, but the reckless pursuit of high-octane, adrenaline-pumping thrills is unequivocally the same. Masked assailants storm the National Security Agency's underground operations centre, killing everyone except agent Augustus Gibbons (Jackson) and gizmo geek Toby Lee Shavers (Roof).

Suspecting a radical faction with the US government, Gibbons springs decorated Special Ops soldier Darius Stone (Ice Cube, pictured) from prison, in the hope of rooting out insurgents in the White House.

Their investigation suggests the first ever coup d'etat in American history, involving president Sanford (Strauss) and his secretary of defence, George Deckert(Dafoe).

Rounding up his old posse of thugs and hoodlums, including former flame Lola(Gaye) and renegade operator Zeke (Xzibit), Darius leads the charge to Washington DC. Ambitious up-and- coming FBI agent Kyle Steele (Speedman) closes the net on Darius, determined to throw the escaped criminal back behind bars. xXx 2: The Next Level is dumb with a capital duh. The plot makes no sense, least of all the characters who herald each overblown set piece by making some huge leap of illogic or remembering a vital piece of information.

Jackson and Speedman enjoy the odd skirmish, while Dafoe sneers and snarls up a storm and Roof offers fleeting comic relief. Despite the film's many shortcomings, for pure visceral thrills, eye-popping pyrotechnics and wanton destruction, director Lee Tamahori delivers.

Truly, the sequel is one breathless guffaw after the next, from the sight of Ice Cube flying through the air and grabbing onto a helicopter that appears out of nowhere, to the hysterical dialogue. But it seems churlish to quibble about the filmmakers' true intentions. That presupposes forethought and some level of intelligence, neither of which have any place in the xXx universe

Action/Thriller. Ice Cube, Samuel L Jackson, Willem Dafoe, Scott Speedman, Michael Roof, Peter Strauss, Xzibit, Nona Gaye. Rating 4/10 Showing at Chester Odeon, Rhyl Apollox Xx 2 : THE NEXT LEVEL (12A
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 29, 2005
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