Worth A Look: 13.25%
Just Average: 7.23%
Pretty Crappy: 15.66%
5 reviews, 136 user ratings
by Erik Childress
There’s something both reassuring and dangerous when a film like XXX is released. It’s a follow-up for a potential breakout moviestar who just had his first real success in a leading role. That film was The Fast and the Furious and the name was Vin Diesel. There was no love lost between myself and that cinematic pot o’luck which contained a great car chase and a great car race and absolutely nothing surrounding them to justify its box office acclaim. Diesel immediately reunited with director Rob Cohen for this franchise hopeful and its either going to cement the Vin as a major draw or awaken audiences to the vapid one-note presence of yet another forgettable action star. Here’s hoping for the latter because like the film rating that the title recalls, children AND adults should not be allowed admission.It’s obvious from the trailers that XXX is going to be nothing but a big dumb action vehicle for Diesel. Fine, I’m all for big dumb action flicks. They don’t have to be original. They don’t have to offer some new insight into the human condition. They just have to bring the action. XXX’s angle is the world of extreme sports, a debatable form of entertainment that uses the term of “sport” pretty loosely. Snowboarding, surfing, (motor)cycling and other dangerous activities once known as hobbies now get the full treatment on ESPN and have even made their way to IMAX locations across the country. The filmmakers have obviously forgotten that James Bond has been pulling these kinds of stunts for over 40 years and by trying to capitalize on a new-age secret agent for the next generation, self-parody has escaped their attention and I was reminded more of the Richard Grieco satire If Looks Could Kill than 007.
"Not Suitable For Anyone"
In your best trailer announcer voice say it with me: Vin Diesel IS XXX!!! His actual name is Xander Cage. The nickname is only explained by the tattoo on the back of his neck, one that’s constantly risked on his internet chaos show, The Xander Zone, where Cage and his space monkeys seemingly terrorize rich white jackasses whom they disagree with. Why its so hard for this group to get caught is anybody’s guess, but this kind of ham-handed setup is indicitive of the action genre where character establishment derives from setting up the hero’s skills rather than his personality. In their defense, their hero has no personality, so you work with what ya got.
With all their best agents getting killed, one of those standard issued elite chapters of the CIA recruits various scumbags to do their dirty work for them. XXX isn’t put through any formal training, just a series of tests that are always accompanied by the final line – “Congratulations, you passed the test,” – delivered by one Samuel L. Jackson as NSA agent Gibbons, proving once again that a great actor is never above a steady paycheck.
Once XXX proves himself worthy of handling diner robberies and Colombian drug cartels, his true mission is revealed to infiltrate the European Anarchy 99 group intent on singing Silent Night to the world with a new poison. In classy fashion, he gets in good with Eurotrash of the Week Villain, Yorgi (Marton Csokas) by selling out his Russian contact over and over and tries to get in elsewhere with Yorgi’s main squeeze, Yelena (Asia Argento). Blah. Blah. Blah. Bring the action.
The trailer seemed to have more action in it, primarily because in quick bursts there was still hope that Cohen was going to match or top the grappling hook truck chase in Fast & Furious. Doesn’t happen, folks. Instead we get a series of underwhelming, yet still ridiculous action sequences peppered by the smugness of our hero that he’s doing something we’ve never seen before. Take his escape from the drug camp when he goes all Steve McQueen on us, hopping on a motorcycle and dodging bullets and explosions. Now we see him make multiple jumps with his wheels, but how is he doing it? Will of mind? We never see a ramp, a hill or suspension wires and some of his maneuvers would be impossible if E.T. was sitting on his handlebars. Even the film’s one eye-opening sequence when XXX is snowboarding ahead of an avalanche that he ignited is, you can practically see the FX technicians doing their best to keep the snow from catching up while ignoring the laws of logic and gravity.
Vin Diesel has been fine in the past in smaller supporting roles such as the doomed Caparzo in Saving Private Ryan and the protective stockbroker in Boiler Room. As a leading man, Diesel was more convincing as the brooding prisoner in Pitch Black then the brooding Bodhi-wannabe in The Fast and the Furious. The point is Diesel can be a likable screen presence and while a name above-the-title comes with all kinds of perks, he may want to think back a moment before reducing himself to just another muscle. Action stars are a dime-a-dozen and usually aren’t worth even that much. For every charming Schwarzenegger, you get a Van Damme, a Seagal, a Lundgren and a Jeff Speakman (remember him?) If Diesel is to become the new Arnold, can you imagine the quarter-note tough guys crawling out of the YMCA to get a piece of the action? God help us all.
How anyone believes a franchise is being born here is beyond me? It’s easy for a series to be birthed from an extravagant dollar total but sequels and trilogies thrive on charismatic heroes, great villains, fun storylines and applause-worthy action. XXX has none of that. The hero is a moron, the villain isn’t scary, the dialogue isn’t funny or clever (the unwitty banter between Diesel and Argento during one scene is all the more painful because one can bet that it was improvised.)
With a title as generic as XXX, how will the marketing geniuses cache their sequels into a subtitled numbers game? XXX-2? XXX-Squared? XXX: XXXer? Why not get creative and just go down the alphabet? They’ve already got 3 letters and they likely want a trilogy – also three! So, if XXX becomes a hit, here are some ideas for the follow-ups:
AAA – Diesel infiltrates an autobody intent on making the plot of Maximum Overdrive a reality.
DDD – The Vin falls in love with an Amazonian princess whose plan is to keep movie audiences full of horny men awake using the power of her evil breasts made from mutant cantaloupes.
HHH – Our hero becomes a professional wrestler in hopes to put an end to a famous character who uses Monday Night Raw and Pay-Per-View events to cause bugs and snakes to protrude from the craniums of all the TV viewers.
III – He discovers the plot to steal nuclear weapons by the head of the Tootsie Pop Corporation who’s missing two fingers on his right hand.
KKK – Never mind.
MMM – Xander dons a wig and takes over for the lead singer of the Crash Test Dummies in an effort to bring them back to the top of the charts.
OOO – An evil genius tries to suck the adrenaline out of extreme sports by stealing the orgasms from its competitors.
SSS – Vin Diesel vs. A Giant Snake. ‘Nuff said.
ZZZ – Wait, they already made this movie, only they called it “XXX”Hopefully Vin’s number and all his letters as an action star are up.
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originally posted: 08/08/02 21:47:22
|Trilogy Starters: For more in the Trilogy Starters series, click here.