Grade: C
Year: 2002
Director: Rob Cohen
Writer: Rich Wilkes
Genre: Action
Rated: PG-13

I don't care what people have been raving about Vin Diesel, lately. So, maybe he is a pumped up upgraded version of James Bond; must we settle for muscle over wit, charm and a British (sounds British although Pierce Brosnan was born in Ireland) accent?

But forget comparing XXX to James Bond, I didn't. Instead, I regarded it as your over-the-top action flick that would make the producers of the X-Games, proud. After all, this is an 111 minute version of the X-Games. Just throw in one Vin Diesel and a whole lotta' guns, ammunition and explosions, and you can add the other two X's to the title.

XXX is simply too far-fetched. Question: How can you tell when a movie crosses the line into the realm of ridiculousness? Answer: Watch the movie at a college screening premiere. When you continually hear the "Bull Sh**" cries from the audience, you know something went wrong. I'll go more into detail on Diesel's antics once I get the poor excuse for a plot out of the way.

Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), a National Security agent, is faced with a serious crisis. A terrorist from the Czech Republic, Yorgi (Marton Csokas), is about to use a biological weapon to conquer the world. I'm just so shocked that we finally have an action movie that has to do with international terrorists trying to destroy the planet. It's about time.

Anyway, Gibbons must find the right man to foil Yorgi's diabolical scheme. I think I would have liked this movie a lot more if Yorgi's name was Bob, or one that didn't predestine him to become a madman in the future. But I'll let that slide. Gibbons must have been watching Men In Black before choosing his man for the job, because he pulled a Tommy Lee Jones and picked the least qualified individual on the planet. You guessed it. His name is Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) . I think I would have liked this movie a lot more if Xander's name was Bob, or one that didn't predestine him to become a super hero in the future.

Xander is cool, nonetheless. But he's a rebel. One who spits out orders after getting them. He's a loose cannon who looks down on authority. But Gibbons only wants him for the job, and so he sets his heart on him. As expected, Xander refuses when first approached to be recruited, but can't rebuff after he is threatened to be sent to prison for committing a slew of stunts that would have taken "jackass" to a whole new level.

What I mean by Gibbons having his heart set on Xander, is the ridiculous amount of money and resources he must have wasted on training him. Or in his words, "passing his test." These tests include setting up an IHOP-like restaurant, only for it to be torn to shreds in an action sequence where Xander believes the restaurant is actually being robbed. Then, he is dropped over what is believed to be Columbia, where an entire war is staged just to see if Xander is prepared. During this time, barns are blown up, actors pretend to die by blank bullets, and Xander ramps over buildings on a motor cycle for no apparent reason. We never actually see the ramp or device Xander uses to propel his bike so far into the air, but we just have to understand it's there. After passing the tests, Xander is ready.

After a seemingly quick briefing (or maybe that part was left out of the story), Xander gets thrown into the hostile Czech Republic, where if I remember correctly, he is supposed to find the bad guy, and find his weapon of mass destruction. Now this is where I personally could have made a difference. While Xander has the experience of skydiving off of bridges, I have seen a lot of movies. And I ALWAYS know where the bad guys hang out. Just point me to where the biggest and most exotic dance club is featuring techno-blasting music, and I'll show you your man. What, you don't where to look once your in the nightclub? Try the huge penthouse suit occupied by beautiful women overlooking the dance floor inhabited by mindless dancing zombies who will eventually make great extras for an upcoming action sequence. And if you want to know where his actual lair is, just look for the highest mountain covered with the most snow.

Now that Xander has found his man, what is left? Ah, but I forgot to mention the one-dimensional dumb-as-brick henchmen and the slightly more intelligent assistants and sidekicks. This is where XXX established itself. Each man Xander must fight off takes place in some type of extreme ordeal that requires oodles of special effects and slow motion capture shots.

My colleagues have told me that I've looked too deeply into XXX. I'm simply supposed to enjoy all of the action. Don't get me wrong, I did. I highly enjoyed watching Xander launch a Senator's beautiful car off a high bridge for political reasons. I really enjoyed watching him barely escape an avalanche on skis while his pursuers on motor-powered snowmobiles were buried alive. I loved watching him hump a massive poisonous gas- carrying missile between his legs through a narrow canal.

All of the action made XXX fun. But that wasn't enough for me to praise the movie, nor the reason for me to scold it. What I didn't like was how unoriginal this film is when you take away all of the computer enhanced scenes and stunts. As you may have already guessed, there is a woman for Xander to talk slick to. Her name is Yelena (Asia Argento). Of course, she is beautiful, who of course is dating Yorgi, but of course, will eventually fall for Xander. She too is a secret agent, and we'll never know for sure whose side she is on until the end.

Speaking of Yelena, the sexual element is present throughout the movie. At one point during Xander's adventure, he temporarily earns the trust of Yorgi, and is invited into his home. It is a palace, and is decorated with women for the pleasure of the men. When Xander is shown to his room, he opens the door to a woman who is dancing on the pole that is part of his bed. At that point, I couldn't help but ask myself, how long has she been in that room, alone; dancing on his bed? Xander then promptly takes his shirt off, and prepares to join her, but not before exasperating another one-liner, "The things I'm going to do for my country." Yep, folks. That's as clever as it gets.

I've been trying to come up with ways to have made XXX better, even with the lame plot and poor one-liner dialogue. While seeing a twenty minute scene of a giant avalanche devouring everyone is a fun sight, wouldn't it be that much better if it could have been made realistically? I mean, people have survived avalanches. But not only does our hero avoid it completely, but he manages to finish off the stunt in Olympic fashion.

A sequel is already in the works. Xander, Gibbons and Yelena have already been caste as characters. I predict Xander and Yelena will be married, or something tragic between the two will drive Xander into continuing his services for the government. But I wonder if this is legal. After all, too many speeding tickets can prevent you from becoming a police officer, how can destroying a senator's car not keep you out of the job?

Maybe I'm just bored of the redundancy that we are being fed. The same fodder is being recycled but given extra sugar. Rather than cleaning out the cat's box, Hollywood is simply dumping more kitty litter into it. It's all the same. I'm just waiting for the right action movie to break the cycle. XXX2, perhaps?

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Copyright 2002. All rights reserved. Contact Editor: Scott Spicciati