So once again we have survived.

xXx

Well you know me, I’ve been talking about the badass presence of Vin Diesel just as long as anyone has, anyone except for him. I’ve been looking forward to this moronic concept of a Vin Diesel star vehicle, figuring anything this stupid starring Vin Diesel would have to be a good time. You saw my epic dissertation on THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS so you know how I enjoy Vin’s egomaniacal charisma combined with Rob Cohen’s pathetic zeitgeist-chasing high conceptualism.

XXX is completely asinine. And I loved that about it. For about half an hour. Then it just got boring in the exact same way all the modern James Bond movies are boring. It takes a special type of standard lowering to enjoy ANYBODY driving around dreary european villages on motorcycles shooting machine guns and blowing things up in the usual ways. You can only watch a henchman shot into the air by an explosion so many times before you start to ask for more from your badass cinematists. I don’t care if you had a young Clint Eastwood riding piggyback on Steve McQueen, you’d still get bored with this movie before it got to the climax.

xXxVin Diesel plays Xander Cage, an “action sports” legend on “underground web sights.” In the opening he steals a Corvette from a senator at a country club. While the cops chase him he makes a video saying that the senator tried to ban rap music and video games. Then he jumps the car off a bridge and parachutes out. So he’s a terrorist folk hero to all pudgy 13 year old suburban kids in Slipknot t–shirts. Those kids who you see on the bus wearing big headphones to hide from the world until they are physically capable of growing their first soul patch.

The movie is obvious about playing to the fantasies of these kids. He mentions Playstation at least once, and knows how to use a gun from playing “first person shooter games”. The extreme sports angle is as humorous as you’d expect. My favorite touch is the scene where he is pointing at a map going over tactics with a team of special agents, and he’s holding a can of Amp.

Of course, the pro-rap and video game stunt gets Xander in trouble with Samuel L. Jackson of the NSA. Samuel wants to use him as an agent so he first runs him through some tests, kidnapping him and leaving him in dangerous situations. This is the fun part of the movie, when Vin gets to show off how smart he is and jump motorcycles sideways over barbed wire fences in an ESPN2 tribute to Steve McQueen’s jump in THE GREAT ESCAPE. We learn that he can perform death defying stunts, and that he likes to call people “monkeys” and talk in lists. (“#1, blah blah blah blah. #2, blah blah blah. And #3, blah blah BLAH blahblah.”) Then somebody tells him, “This isn’t one of your stunts!”

You also get a little glimpse into his lifestyle, which involves doing a stunt then going back to party with a bunch of tattooed white guys who enjoy skateboarding and co-opting black slang.

But then he gets his mission, and you spend the rest of the time waiting for the god damn thing to end. Part of the reason THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS was watchable was because the villain was so charismatic. Because he was Vin Diesel. In XXX you gotta watch Vin in a giant fur coat (admittedly a nice touch) trying to get in good with some scruffy guy in a long coat who talks in a Boris Badenov accent. The villains all have the distinct lack of presence and personality that you expect from a lesser Jackie Chan movie. They hang out upstairs in a dance club and then their plan just involves chemical weapons on a little submarine. And they call themselves “Anarchy 99”. There are more imaginative villains in POLICE ACADEMY sequels.

In Europe the least boring character is Dario’s daughter, Asia Argento. She’s just right for this type of movie but all that means is she’s real hot. And it’s not like they would’ve hired somebody that wasn’t real hot so that’s not getting the filmatists any points from me.

The story is completely generic, and so are the one-liners (except one real bad one: “Welcome to the Xander-Zone!”) I did appreciate the way the NSA aren’t COMPLETELY portrayed as good guys. They do save the day but they’re not as selfless as Xander ends up being. They are willing to let one city die instead of ten. He doesn’t want any city destroyed. Even though he likes to snowboard. Wrap your mind around THAT. The NSA follows the “gotta break a few eggs” philosophy, he sticks with “never leave a man behind”. But otherwise there’s not much clever are thoughtful here.

Which should be fine, right? In this type of movie. But you can’t just say yeah, this is XXX, it’s not supposed to have good parts. True, you don’t need to be smart or original. But at the VERY least you gotta do something memorable in the action department. I liked the stupid idea of using a dinner tray as a skateboard, and the snowboarding in front of an avalanche scene was okay I guess. But all the motorcycles and skydiving are old hat – the movie’s really not as different from James Bond as it thinks it is. And just like the car racing in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, the whole “action sports” fad is not as inherently cinematic as Rob Cohen probaly thinks it is. When you see those videos of people flying down stairways on bicycles or rolling down impossibly steep mountains and ending up on their feet, its amazing because you know it’s real, and you can’t believe some fuckin moron actually did that on purpose. When you see Vin Diesel do it in a movie you know it’s not real, so all you feel is that itching feeling that you’re supposed to be thrilled.

I mean he does a decent enough job being the new highly paid action hero guy. Even if the character doesn’t have as much appeal as his supporting roles. But he really needs a more interesting movie surrounding him. Maybe the sequel will be better.

P.S. (I added this later)

The sequel oughta be like the first DIRTY HARRY sequel, questioning the values of the first movie. For all the talk about not selling out in the first part of the movie, XXX sure sells out fast and questions it little. I’d like to see all those guys who risked their lives helping him throw a senator’s car off a bridge react to their hero who now works for the man and flies around with a red white and blue parachute. Yes, he saved the world and that’s the right thing to do. But this is hollywood cheating, because the system he stands up against really isn’t trying to save the world, that’s why he stands up against it. I wanna see the system turn against XXX, and vice versa, or I don’t wanna see a sequel at all. End of story. No, there is no negotiating. Sorry.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Friday, August 9th, 2002 at 4:44 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “xXx”

  1. I commented on your review for “xXx: State of the Union” but I should give my take on this one. In the past, I have had sort of a love/hate relationship with this movie. I still KIND OF do, but I actually take this movie for face value more than before.

    I still remember going to see this in theaters for my 16th birthday. Even back then, I thought that the movie was really cheesy. Sure, the action sequences were good and so were the stunts, but what really got me was how this movie tried too hard to make XXX seem like the Anti-Bond or “The New Breed of Secret Agent” like how the movie was promoted as such back in 2002. It was obvious that the tuxedo guy at the beginning of the movie was a jab at Bond (Though Rob Cohen said otherwise in the film’s commentary). Again, the action sequences were still enjoyable and that is what brings on the “love” side to my love/hate relationship. However, it was totally obvious that Rob Cohen was seriously trying to appeal to a young demographic with the whole extreme sports stuff, not to mention hot women in the film (Not that I complained).

    I can still enjoy this movie, though at times, I kind of feel a little dirty watching it. I will admit that while I enjoyed it enough when I saw it in theaters (Enough to own it on DVD, both the PG-13 and Unrated versions), I had more of a blast watching “Die Another Day” in theaters months later. Still, it delivered on the action and that’s all what mattered.

  2. Unlike Vern, I had a blast in the theatre with this one. Though none of the repeat viewings can quite recapture the unexpected fun of that first time, I still unapologetically adore xXx. It’s always seemed to me too knowingly stupid for its supposed target demographic of teenage Amp-swilling xtreme video gaming jocks (<- oxymorons?).

    I hate snowboarding & skateboarding & motorcycles & muscle cars & energy drinks & prostitutes & muzzle-guzzling vodka & fur attire & sexually harrassing colleagues with your see-through x-ray goggles, all activities in which Xander revels. Correspondingly I happen to love opera, which Xander calls "torture," and I'm an unabashed patriot who trusts The Man, more or less, and wouldn't mind an overseas gig with the NSA — so I'm kind of in opposition to most of the spirit of Xander Cage and his ugly nerdy acolytes.

    And yet I enjoy watching him operate. Cuz he enjoys putting on a show. And Cohen enjoys showing that show from multiple camera angles, Asian action/stunt cinema style. And it's awesome. Or at least humorously entertaining. He lives for this shit, as I recall.

    Rob Cohen knows this shit is ridiculous, and his writer, Rich Wilkes (AIRHEADS, which is still funny), knows what he's doing, too. xXx is mad funny, even the part where Asia Argento is literally laughing at the stupid shit that Xander is saying. Meta!

    And the Russian subtitled part at the guards' night watch bunker is hilarious. It's a better, more efficient send-up of Bond movie henchmen futility & fatalism than anything in the AUSTIN POWERS saga.

    "How's it going?"
    "Life is shit!"
    "Yeah, well, what can you do?"

    And, sure enough, 10 seconds later they're both dead.

    And I don't know how you can't laugh along with the film when it cuts from generic INDEPENDENCE DAY style doom-y images of Czech statues scored to generic doom-y music to a breathless high speed chase to more generic doom-y imagery montage to a high speed road-to-river harpooning to an absurd American flag parachute. It's like the awesome colored smoke climax of THE ROCK but better and with more laffs.

  3. We watched it in school on one of our last days before the end. Our teacher of course hated it, but totally freaked out when the russian cop (or whatever he was), that constantly gets outsmarted by XXX and later turns out to be a traitor showed up, because he was played by acclaimed German character actor Richy Müller. It was pretty funny to see my teacher go like: “Oh my god, that’s Richy Müller! What is he doing in such a movie! Wow, Richy Müller. I guess they paid him well.” over and over for MINUTES! I’m not kidding you. It totally blew his mind.

  4. Did you see that Donnie Yen AND Tony Jaa are in this one? If the trailer is accurate, half the turn time will be in slow motion. Oh and two girls shoot two guns at once so you don’t see that much anymore.

    xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE - Official Trailer #1 (2017) Vin Diesel Action Movie HD

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