Directed by Lee Tamahori, starring Ice Cube, Willem Dafoe, Samuel L Jackson, Xzibit and Scott Speedman.

The second noisy offering from the 'XXX' action franchise sees a 'more attitude' Ice Cube take the reins from Vin Diesel. This time around 'XXX' sheds its extreme sports tag and is more of an urban, military-type actioner set in Washington DC.

After assassins infiltrate his secret government agency, Agent Gibbons (Jackson) needs a new XXX secret agent to help him investigate. Mistrustful of his own circle, he turns to ex-Navy Seal Darius Stone (Ice Cube), a falsely imprisoned soldier who is looking for revenge on the former general, Deckert (William Dafoe), who put him behind bars. It turns out that Deckert, now the Secretary of Defence, has been training a military unit on the sly in order to stage a coup against an increasingly pacifist president. Grudgingly Stone agrees to take on the army to save the world, with the help of tanks, guns and his carjacking mates from the 'hood.

Ice Cube's Stone has been banged up for nine years now and is understandably feeling a little grumpy about it, with his mammoth scowl barely leaving his face for the entire film. His reluctant demeanour and chunky frame suggests more surly, lazy teenager than hardcore action hero. However, when he slopes into action he proves to be a fearless warrior and delivers a convincing performance with gruff charisma.

Dafoe plays the two-faced defence secretary with delicious nastiness and Jackson trots out the decent, anti-establishment role with panache.

Director Lee Tamahori ('Die Another Day') relies heavily on special effects in some ridiculous scenes where pure fairytale action takes place. There are a couple of cartoonish escapes that will have you giggling into your popcorn and the plot is really very silly at times.

'XXX2' energetically wrings all it can out of the action movie clichés: fast cars, gleaming military hardware, shapely ladies (who in this case know a lot about cars) and flamboyant explosions at every turn. There is a distinct video game feel to some of the fight scenes, with the assassins looking like they had just fled a 'Splinter Cell' game.

It saunters along at a fast pace, is engaging and fairly funny in places (although sometimes not intentionally so). It may be a touch ludicrous, but it is entertaining and worth checking out if you are partial to action flicks.

Mary McCarthy