By Shawn McKenzie 08/02/2002
What exactly is the appeal of Vin Diesel?
That is the question I was asking myself when I walked out of the screening of XXX. Is it his acting chops? I seriously doubt it. I really believe it is his physical appearance and his overall aura. He just oozes cool.
This is why it is that much harder for me to trash this movie completely. I do realize that this movie is in the popcorn action vein, but it’s not a fantasy world, like The Scorpion King. Therefore, I expect a little more realism in the action. The stunts in this movie are so unbelievable that I have to knock it down one peg. I didn’t stop there though. I knocked it down another half a peg for other reasons I will get into later.
First, before I go on, let me clue you into what exactly this movie is about. It is the story of Xander Cage (Diesel), who likes to be called X, or Triple X (and has it tattooed to the back of his neck.) He is an extreme sports athlete criminal who likes to use his extreme sports skills (driving fast cars, skydiving, skate/snowboarding, etc.) to punish people they don’t like, like politicians who want to censor the arts. In the opening scene with Diesel, we see him and his film crew as he steals a senator’s car and drives it off a bridge while they dramatically escape the fiery crash, all while being filmed. My guess is they then sell the tapes on the underground extreme sports film circuit. Meanwhile, the NSA, an American government agency, has had no luck getting information on a Czech-Republic group who goes by the name Anarchy 99. The leader of the agency, Agent Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), figures that the reason they haven’t been successful is because they need a criminal to infiltrate the criminal organization. They decide to recruit X against his will (in a "Mod Squad" type situation…you know, work for the agency instead of going to jail.) Gibbons promises to erase his prior record if he will go on this mission for him. Of course, he accepts, only he does things his way, which makes everyone but Gibbons mad. He gets in tight with the leader of Anarchy 99, Yorgi (Marton Csokas), and Yorgi’s partner and girlfriend, Yelena (Asia Argento.) He finds out about Yorgi’s plan to cause all the nations to go to war with each other, which will cause complete anarchy in the world, or what he considers the ultimate freedom from oppression of government control. Along the way, X gets to use all sorts of cool gadgets, supplied to him by Virg (Joe Bucaro III), like bandages that blow stuff up, binoculars that can see through things, non-lethal bullets that look lethal, and a souped-up GTO.
Yes, Sony is going after MGM’s James Bond franchise with their own 21st century version of Bond. In fact, before they recruit X, one of the previous agents who had tried to infiltrate Anarchy 99 looks just like a Bond knock-off, and he is killed in the opening scene. Out with the old, in with the new, I guess.
First, let me talk about what is good about the movie. Diesel exudes cool throughout the film. He has a look and a presence that screams “action star.” The stunts, no matter how completely unbelievable, were still amazing. This is a non-stop action flick!
Now for the bad. As cool as Diesel’s presence is, he isn’t the best actor around. Unfortunately, the acting all around isn’t the best. It even drags down the usually great Jackson. In addition, as I stated before, the stunts are very unbelievable. There is a scene where Diesel jumps a barbwire fence with a motorbike that is so high, no real person could really do it. Even if someone could, the shocks on the bike would not be able to stand the impact to the ground on the other side of the fence. Another scene included Diesel outrunning an avalanche on his snowboard. You would have to see it to understand.
Why knock it down the extra half a peg? After I walked out of the theater, I saw the reactions of my fellow moviegoers. They all seemed to have the same reaction, that the movie was just okay, and highly unbelievable.
I think the producers of XXX may have been a little overzealous when they promised Diesel $20 million for XXX2. He and director Rob Cohen did much better work in last year’s The Fast and the Furious. This movie will probably make a lot of money the first week, and it will probably make back all of the $50 million it cost to make the movie, but I think most people will just think it is “okay.” If Diesel develops his acting chops and they make the stunts a little more realistic (hey, they did it in The Bourne Identity), then XXX2 might be decent. James Bond, look out for Triple X!
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