XXX

August, 2002, Thriller

Directed by:Rob Cohen

Starring:Vin Diesel , Asia Argento , Marton Csokas , and Samuel L. Jackson

   

Is there anyone born before the death of Elvis Presley who still doubts the enormous impact of MTV on the under 25 set? If so, let them immediately go to their neighborhood multiplex and check out this summer’s current hit being pedaled at the box-office. It's the second effort by the director/star team of Rob Cohen and Vin Diesel, who surprised Hollywood last summer with a car crash epic entitled The Fast and the Furious. The stunts are more spectular here, as is the scenery; shot in Prague, XXX makes full use of that city's stunning vistas. Would that something equally encouraging could be said of the movie itself. Even Samuel Jackson presence as an exasperated federal agent can’t elevate these proceedings

It's a James Bond rip-off for the heavy-metal set and a wet-dream for the marketing department of Columbia pictures; here's a flic aimed so self-consciously at their prime movie audience, (males age 18-25) that it proudly wears its plagiarism on Disel's overly tattooed torso. He's Xander Lane, (nicknamed XXX) extreme-sports legend and all around bad dude who avoids going to jail only because Jackson’s bureaucrat (named Gibbons, no first name supplied) recruits him for a dangerous mission in the service of yet another secret government agency with a bad anagram. (In the film's sole demonstration of subtlety, Diesel comes out of Gibbons' drug induced restraint to the sound of Donovan's "Mellow Yellow") Xander is sent to the elegant capital city of the Czech Republic to thwart the egomaniacally cataclysmic ambitions of Yorgi, (no last name needed) who's using disaffected, punk-rock survivors of the former Soviet Union to spread germ warfare and thus destroy the world's governments, making the planet safe for bad haircuts, all night parties and the kind of global anarchy that only Bond-style villains seem capable of appreciating.

Diesel's character is actually a fairly sly and affectionate nod to 007; gadgets, gorgeous women and fast cars abound, but Xander's about as subtle as blast furnace, and his body, (which resembles large sections of dressed elk meat) is a far cry from the sleek image presented by Pierce Brosnan or Sean Connery in their elegant tuxedos. To add insult to injury, Xander's serenely clueless on geopolitical issues; he's in life's adventures for himself, and shrewdly observes only those things that advance his own agenda. He manages to worm his way into Yorgi's inner circle with blinding speed and after a series of exciting but absurd action sequences soon makes off with the latter’s girl, ignoring Gibbons' protestations along the way. (As Gibbons, Jackson sports a set of disfiguring facial scars that make him look like a Klingon extra who's wandered off the set of a Star Trek movie). 

          Inevitably, Xander single-handedly saves the entire city of Prague from Yorgi's weapon of mass destruction before going to the South Seas with the villain's former girlfriend where he's harassed by Gibbons, who ends this overly long action-orgy with an urgent request to return to Washington for XXX's next assignment….

          Does XXX really have a future? I'd bet a lot of money on that; Cohen traded in a promising carrier as producer, (Witches of Eastwick, Ironweed etc) and director, (Dragonheart ) for this highly successful metamorphosis into gung-ho action supplier to the youth market. His knack for generating advance publicity for his lobotomized Bond, coupled with a very "now" sound track and dazzling pyrotechnical special effects should have the acne 'n action crowd lining up for the next installment as soon as it's announced. But in a summer that has produced so few decent action films, this one looks and plays better than it should.    

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