XXX (2002) starring Vin Diesel, Samuel L. Jackson, Asia Argento, Marton Csokas, Michael Roof, Richy Muller, Werner Daehn, Tom Everett directed by Rob Cohen - movie review on The Movie Scene

XXX (2002)   2/52/52/52/52/5


Asia Argento and  Vin Diesel in xxx

Lacking the X Factor

Never have I watched a movie which has had so much praise, but left me feeling so absolutely cheated and completely disappointed. The movie in question is the diatribe called "XXX" a movie which on its cinematic release received praise as a Bond style action thriller for a new generation, a generation of extreme sport loving, adrenalin junkies. Whilst "XXX" is definitely comparable to a Bond style movie, and indeed has a few very well choreographed action sequences, it offers nothing in the lines of a decent plot, script or characters which you can connect with, and to be completely honest it lacks anything which makes you want to watch it more than once, let alone a sequel.

Having lost a special agent whilst trying to infiltrate an underground terrorist group called 'Anarchy 99', NSA spymaster Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson - Deep Blue Sea) decides that a different approach is in order. Requiring someone who is more expendable he approaches Xander Cage (Vin Diesel - The Fast and the Furious), an extreme sports junkie and minor cult celebrity with a criminal record as long as his arm, forcing him to go under cover for them or face a lengthy time in prison. After a ruthless crash course in being a spy Xander is packed off to the Czech Republic to hopefully infiltrate the underground terrorist group and put pay to their evil plans.

Samuel L. Jackson as Agent Augustus Eugene Gibbons in xxx

"xxx" starts of quite positively with a scene, although quite implausible, which basically seals the death of our typical tuxedo wearing, Bond style agent paving way for a new type of spy. This prologue leads nicely into the introduction to the supposed hero, Xander Cage, and in a very well choreographed, adrenalin pumping action sequence we learn that he is not only an extreme sports adrenalin junkie and a minor cult celebrity, but he is also anti-establishment, always on the look out for number one. Whilst I have to admit that this intro actually had me hooked, it didn't take long for the movie to lose my attention through a completely implausible plot and more importantly, I didn't know who I detested more, the terrorists, Gibbons the spymaster or in fact the movies supposed hero Xander Cage.

Whilst the plot definitely felt like it had been ripped out of a Bond movie, with the typical terrorist organization and the undercover agent who has to save the day, it lacked any real development. Making it not only coming across as implausible, due to the numerous holes, but also that it was only there as a vehicle for the numerous action sequences. Although I was not expecting to be dazzled with a story which would involve me to flex my brain muscles too much, likewise I was not expecting to watch a film where I didn't need to use my brain at all. It also does not help matters when 90% of the dialogue is not only full of cheesy lines, but also delivered in an over the top manner that makes you laugh as well as cringe.

Although the distinct lack of any engaging plot or resemblance of decent dialogue is a definite negative, the film does attempt to make some amends by having a few decent action sequences. The opening car chase, which results in a breath taking escape, really sets the tone for what to expect from the rest of the movies action sequences and unlike some movies which play all their cards too soon, the action sequences in "XXX" are all of a very high standard climaxing with an action sequence which is as powerful as the intro. With a definite slant towards the extreme sports culture, these action sequences, although at times are as implausible as the plot, at least add a bit of meat to the bones of a pretty poor movie.

Whilst the lack of plot is in a way balanced out by having some impressive action sequences, the film really fails to deliver when it comes to the characters and to some extent the acting. My biggest problem comes with the so called hero, Xander Cage, as whilst he fits the bill of being the man of the hour, who saves the day and in typical fashion gets the girl, I had no empathy towards him. Whilst Bond was a hero, who most men wanted to be, I could not find a trace of Cage which really appealed to me and I definitely did not want to be him, even if he did get the girl. Part of my problems comes from the casting of Vin Diesel, who at one time showed great promise of being a decent actor but sadly has fallen into the trap of playing stereotypical, pumped up action heroes. Whilst Diesel may look the part, with his tattoos and beefed up muscles, his delivery of lines was at times cheesier than the lines he was actually delivering and in general his character came over as a self-centred slime ball rather than a real hero.

If one bad character was not enough the character of the NSA spymaster Augustus Gibbons, which is quite obviously meant to be the equivalent of James Bond's 'M', was again a huge disappointment. The problems come from a poorly written character and surprisingly the casting of Samuel L. Jackson, as the character comes across as being confused as to whether he is a tough, time warn cookie or a very cool cat. It also does not help that the dialogue that Jackson is given to deliver is on a par with the cheesy lines that Diesel has. To top it off, the characterisation of the terrorists is absolutely dreadful, as there is no real sense of evil about them. It is sadly a culmination of these poorly written characters and some less than average performances which really lets this film down.

Whilst the screen writers have obviously attempted to create a Bond style movie for a younger, hipper generation, I feel that director Rob Cohen is partly to blame for not making this come to fruition. Whilst he has put in plenty of quality action sequences which will definitely appeal to a younger audience, the failure to pull greater performances from the films stars, which would have had the knock on effect of making the dialogue seem less cheesy, is a huge disappointment. At times it feels like he gave up on the script and just tried to deliver enough action sequences in a hope that it would wow the audiences.

What this all boils down to is I can appreciate that some will get a real kick out of "xxx" but it didn't give me the kick that I expected. With its terribly thin plot, cheesy dialogue, poor characters and even poorer performances I really failed to see why this film became a success let alone spawn a sequel, but then maybe I was not in the target audience. In my opinion, this films only saving grace comes from some brilliantly choreographed action sequences which manage to stop this film from being totally unmemorable. I would imagine that whilst "XXX" did not appeal to me, it would definitely appeal to anyone who just desires a bit of action packed escapism which requires very little concentration as well as those who get pleasure from ogling the pumped up Vin Diesel.


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