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XXX (PG-13)
Columbia Pictures
Official Site
Director: Rob Cohen
Producer: Neal H. Moritz
Written by: Rich Wilkes
Cast: Vin Diesel, Samuel L. Jackson, Marton Csokas, Asia Argento

Rating:


XXX is the Hollywood attempt to merge action movies with extreme sports. The concept is simple: Vin Diesel is Xander Cage, an anti-authority figure who makes a living recording his outrageous stunts, like driving a state legislator’s Corvette off a bridge to its fiery demise 700 feet below. This fast living catches up with Xander, and he is “drafted” into the war on terror by NSA agent August Gibbons ( Jackson). Gibbons is in desperate need of someone of Xander’s talents to infiltrate the terrorist cell Anarchy 99. After some training, Xander goes to Prague, meeting Anarchy 99’s leader, Yorgi ( Csokas), and his girlfriend, Yelena ( Argento). The movie becomes even more predictable as Xander infiltrates Anarchy 99, deduces its nefarious plot, and saves the world as we know it.

These types of movies don’t rely on great acting. And it’s a good thing, too. Marton Csokas fails, on both physical and cerebral levels, to inspire fear. Effete and sporting long hair, we know he’s no match for Vin Diesel. Yorgi is the typical insane supervillain, but at least Csokas chooses not to take the yelling, screaming option some actors have used. He opts instead to go for soft-spoken and understated. Too understated. We never have any reading on who he is. We do know he’s from Russia, because he manages to keep a consistent accent. Yelena starts as an icy-hearted woman, but her cold heart is soon melted by Xander’s hot body. Soon she is simply reduced to an appendage of Vin Diesel. Samuel L. Jackson must have taken this part knowing he could phone in a performance and still look better than anyone else.

This film rests squarely on Vin Diesel’s meaty shoulder, and he is Xander Cage as only he could be. He is bigger, badder, and buffer than ever, imbuing even the worst dialogue with a sense of, well, bad-assness. A man with his talents will never want for work.

Action, not acting is the draw of XXX and it has more than enough of that to satisfy its apparent target audience—young boys. The numerous action scenes all suffer from the same problem: they’re too unbelievable and too loud. It’s okay to show Xander jumping from a motorcycle 30 feet into the air, but is it necessary to show it five times in three minutes? The filmmaker treats action sequences like bad jokes: If the gag doesn’t work the first time, push it. None of the rules of physics or biology seem to apply to Xander. He is, in his own words, “untouchable,” which totally removes any fleeting element of suspense from the movie.

No, this movie is just too loud, both in the auditory sense and in the feeling of excess that pervades the entire production. The sound is turned up to eardrum-splitting levels, which may be to the movie’s advantage, since you’ll wonder whether it’s the volume that makes your head hurt or merely this mind-numbingly stupid movie.

Despite being about a “new breed” of secret agent, there’s nothing new here. The only thing XXX has going for it is the undeniable charm and sex appeal of Vin Diesel. It’s his movie all the way. But watching his movie can make people lose IQ points, like all of them. How stupid is it? So stupid that writing about this movie made me feel stupider. In the stupid steeplechase, this is the movie to beat. Here’s what you’ll experience if you watch it. One soon realizes that in watching this movie, one is killing brain cells, without any of the beneficial effects of consuming, say, alcohol. Next, one notices that he or she has paid cold, hard cash to achieve this effect. Instead of watching XXX, take a screwdriver and place it pointing toward your skull, then have a friend drive it in with a sledgehammer. At least that exercise would be free.

XXX is best served by video rental, where you and your pals can talk over the bad parts (all of it), and laugh at the preposterous.

—Woodrow Bogucki

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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