XXX (2002)

xxx

Knocked over a few 7-11’s, have we?”

The Scoop: 2002 PG-13, Directed by Rob Cohen and starring Vin Diesel and Asia Argento

Tagline: Not available… to the extreme!

Summary Capsule: Bald jock is enlisted as a psychotic spy

Justin’s rating: X-Treme Yo-Yoing!

Justin’s review: I’ve seen or read numerous Vin “Bald Is Beautiful” Diesel interviews where he promotes XXX as being some sort of “new” spy movie, a James Bond-buster, an action thriller for OUR generation. Well, not MY generation, and probably not yours. I’m sure there are lots of kids (including the 30-year old variety) who consider themselves arnarchistic extreme sports junkies, but that’s only because of the Mountain Dew buzz they get while playing Dance Dance Revolution in the arcade.

In any case, as hard as XXX tries to be “this ain’t your father’s” spy movie, it’s just as formulaic as the James Bond template it’s cloned from. There’s the unkillable hero who laughs — literally — in the face of death and torture. There’s the enigmatic boss who sends him into harm’s way. There’s the girl who is there only because the spy needs her as a key to unlock the door to the next level of the game. There’s the super-car, loaded with so many gadgets that it makes my modified Geo Metro (now, with a racing stripe!) somewhat obsolete. Cripes, there’s even a ripoff of the James Bond music video credits, right at the end of the film! So, call it what it is, enjoy it for what it is, but let’s end any pretense of XXX breaking the mold. It is the mold, and there are little bits of Sean Connery hanging off of it.

XXX (Diesel) is a REBEL, an X-TREME sports guy, and somewhat of a NINCOMPOOP. At the beginning of the film, he carjacks a convertible belonging to a senator, lecturing him on his anti-video game stance while XXX drives the car off a bridge. Now, I agree that video games have been grossly slandered as a scapegoat for idiot senators, but isn’t XXX being somewhat hypocritical in the fact that the rest of this violent movie is basically a Video Game Coming To A Best Buy Near You? I think so!

It’s really funny to see how obvious the filmmakers were gunning for their target demographic: male teens ages 13-18. XXX has to be a bone fide hero to them in the first half hour — he giggles in the face of authority, destroys anything he wants to so that he can get an adrenaline fix, and is so cocky that a hen house on mating day doesn’t have half the cockiness he has.

“Yay!” the teen males cry. “Beat them up! Reject authority! Grind off of everything! Go… serve your country?”

This is where I laugh my condescending laugh some more, because even with all of his Attitude™, XXX ends up being a meek spy sent to save the world. And it doesn’t take much more than a few vague threats and reverse psychology from boss Gibbons (Samuel “Purple Lightsaber” L. Jackson) to get him to do so. So while I found XXX to be extremely annoying early in the film and likable later on, I’m sure that the tattoo-rave-culture-skateboarders have to be scratching their head a little in reverse. But hey, I don’t mean to be that snide… after all, we’ve been admiring wisecracking commando actors for years, so should we expect any different when this one has enough ink on his body to pen Moby Dick?

Remember how irate the critics and moviegoers got over The Long Kiss Goodnight (another Jackson piece), accusing it of absurd action sequences and stunts? I’ve never quite understood why that film stood out so much, when flicks like XXX lack even an abstract concept of the laws of physics. There are action sequences, yes, but they’re so perfect and so grotesquely obscene in scope that it’s about neigh impossible to fake yourself into accepting them. This is also one of those movies, in the grand tradition of action films, where everything blows up. When I mean everything, class…? “You mean EVERYTHING!” Yes. From cars to goats, there is not enough gasoline and fuses in the world for this director to blow up stuff. It got to the point where things, such as empty barns, were blowing up for no apparent reason, other than XXX was walking in front of it. And I must point out that XXX has to be the first movie where POTATOES are blown up with ROCKETS. That’s right. It’s wild! It’s X-treme! It’s potato flakes!

So this film gets a shrug and an “ehh” on my rating scale (wherever I misplaced it). The action is definitely there, though the evil villain isn’t that ingenious, nor does he — or anyone else — go hand-to-hand with XXX. Apparently, this is one spy who isn’t afraid to let his special effects budget do his job for him.

Kyle’s rating: The Spy Who Disappointed Me

Kyle’s review: I am an unrepentant James Bond fanatic. I definitely should have been much more attractive than I turned out, so all I have is the opportunity (through films) to live vicariously through the debauchery and adventure that Bond indulges in. Needless to say, James Bond plays a big part in my life and is a more than a hero: he’s a close personal friend. No, really. So when this XXX film came out and every critic and skateboarding wacko proclaimed loudly that Bond was out of it and that Mr. XXX was the update, the replacement, and the man of tomorrow, I decided I just had to see this XXX and figure it out for myself. But I put it off for a long time. If XXX was the new paradigm and Bond was about to be overshadowed by the younger upstart, I wasn’t going to be first in line to see it happen. Bond, I love you!

Thankfully, I saw Die Another Day first and any concerns I had about the viability of Bond in the new millennium were vanquished. Bond is still The Man! So, knowing that XXX could at best be a competitor and never a replacement, I finally felt comfortable seeing this Vin Diesel madness once it was available to rent. It had Asia Argento (hot!) in it, after all, so it was worth the $1 rental fee, right? Right?

WRONG! Woo hoo! If this is the best they can throw up against James Bond, I think it’s clear that Bond is going to last another 20 years. I mean no offense to XXX-lovers because personal preference leads to crazy extremes and I am quite aware of this, but this movie is complete garbage! And I’m really happy about it! I would never watch this movie again, because I could barely sit through it the first time! Yikes! I hardly ever write really negative reviews because I can usually find some good stuff to like, including nudity and ultra-violence. But XXX deserves a pasting. It’s really stupid! And Diesel isn’t charming, as far as I can tell. If I’m supposed to be rooting for this XXX guy as the hero, I should at least care if he lives or dies, I would think. But XXX is such a lump of a lunk, if I didn’t know he was the “good guy” from the movie poster I would think he’s just a minion of the villain or something.

Wow, this movie is heinous! Yeah, I thought it was really bad, and I was squirming on the couch the whole time because I wanted to go to sleep or eat tinsel off the tree or something instead of finishing it. If XXX were bionic I could buy him doing some of the stuff he does, like leaping bikes without ramps or outracing avalanches. But as it is, I think they’re trying to appeal to the extreme sports-loving masses in saying “Hey, if the government picked you up tomorrow, in a couple days you could be saving the world from an evil mastermind!” Although I will agree you or I could do a much better job than XXX. Yikes.

There really isn’t too much more to say. XXX is baaaaaaaad. And hey, that beginning segment where a tux-wearing superspy fails miserably and pays with his life didn’t escape me: XXX really is trying to say Bond’s day is past and XXX is the future. But judging from the evidence, James Bond is going to live to die another day, and XXX is going to live IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER! Or in a van down by the skate park. I was going for a cool finish, but since XXX didn’t deliver on that either, in its “honor” neither will I.

Clare’s rating: If this movie wasn’t so damn loud I could have slept through the whole thing.

Clare’s review: Can someone please explain to me why Vin Diesel is a movie star? Because I’ve heard all sorts of stories about how he possesses some kind of “charisma” and “good looks” and while I admit he’s got a voice built for gay phone sex and certain sections of his body aren’t repulsive (those would be the sections that aren’t his face or head), since when is that all you need to be a HUGE action star? XXX made gigantic, colossal sums of money at the box office during its theatrical release but I waited until it came out on DVD to give it a look. The night we rented it was the same night Hubbyman brought home a fancy-schmancy projector and 5’x 8′ screen from work that allowed us to get the full XXX effect in the comfort of our living room. (This system’s alternate purpose, by the way, was to allow us to play Mortal Kombat like rock stars).

Even with all the special projector technology, this movie was a giant, pyrotechnic snooze-fest. I won’t bore you with the “plot” details. I’ll just leave it at this: the plot of a porn film looks well-crafted and nuanced in comparison. Basically, Vin Diesel parades around being “cool” and “hot” at the same time while doing an ever-increasingly ludicrous number of extreme (-ly choreographed) stunts. Sometimes he pouts or shoots a big gun. Other times he wears goofy-looking designer outfits or appears menacing before delivering a pat, movie-hero retort. The bad guys have foreign accents, greasy hair and really easily thwarted plans for world domination. Xander’s boss is gruff, tough and don’t take no guff. So, as you may have deduced by now, if you’ve seen any other action movie made any time in the last 400 years, you’ve seen everything there is to see in XXX. Only the movie you saw was probably better. I will say that I did find the soundtrack to be quite excellent. It’s got tracks from Rammstein, Queens of the Stone Age, The Chemical Brothers and Moby. But if my love of loud music is the best thing to be recommended about a film then, um, yeah.

The official plot synopsis for XXX goes like this: Xander Cage is an extreme-sports athlete recruited by the government on a special mission.

Imagine, if you will, the coked-up pitch meeting that got this stinker green-lit.

Production company numbskull #1: “See, it’s like James Bond, only EXTREME. And it’s got the same tired fireballs and sexual innuendo of Bond, but it’s, you know, YOUNG and FRESH. Plus, we’ll get some up-and-coming hunka-hunka to play the lead and he’ll flex his arms a lot so the girls will want to see it too. It’ll be James Bond meets those Mountain Dew commercials meets that Christina Aguilara video where you get to see her whole ass.”

Production company numbskull #2: “I love it! Where do I send my $400,000,000.00 check to get this puppy up and running!?!”

My only real hope in all of this (after coming to grips with the fact that Vin Diesel has somehow forged a career for himself despite his obvious shortcomings in, say, the “acting” and “emoting” section of being a professional movie star) is that eventually, one day, if I’m a good girl and eat all my vegetables, he will be on Inside the Actors’ Studio and I can scoot up real close to the set and die laughing.

Imagine if you will, just how perfect that episode would be:

James Lipton: “Now Vin, if that is your REAL name, which we all know it clearly is not, in 2002 you starred in what can only be described as the most masterful piece of cinematic splendor ever conceived by the minds of mortal man. I speak, of course, of your star-making turn as Xander Cage in XXX (wild applause). Please Vin, may I ask you, what sort of cream did you use in that film to make your taut, lean, muscular body glisten in such as fashion as to make full-grown men weep for their lost youths at the slightest gander toward your exquisite form?”

Vin Diesel: “I think it was baby oil James. But I don’t know for sure.”

Robust, grateful, exuberant applause bursts from every seat in the theater. James Lipton slumps onto his desk, overcome with humbled tears of joy.

I implore you not to waste your money on XXX. But since I don’t want to leave you without options, if you want to watch a really entertaining action movie filled with crazy stunts, I would heartily recommend any or all of the following films:

1) Die Hard

2) Any movie Jackie Chan made before 1995 (except City Hunter)

3) The Matrix

4) The Bourne Identity

5) Any movie John Woo directed before 1993

XXX, you stop ruining your mother’s serving trays, and get back in here and help with the dishes!

Intermission!

  • Everyone should have a skateboarding ramp in their apartment
  • It’s good to cause avalanches on the same mountain you’re on, as long as you’ve got a snowboard that goes 500 mph
  • Jackson’s burned face works better than Kevin Spacey’s burned visage in Pay It Forward
  • “Yay! I just got boiling coffee thrown in my face and now I’ve got 2nd degree burns, all to ‘test’ this new agent!”
  • Is XXX a pimp, cause what’s with that fur-lined jacket? He looks like he’s ready to hibernate for the winter in that thing.
  • Vin Diesel’s stuntman, Harry O’Connor, died when he hit a pillar of the Palacky Bridge in Prague, para-sailing during one of the actions scenes.

Groovy Quotes

    • XXX: I wish I had a video camera, ’cause this is going to be one hell of a trick

Gibbons: I want you to meet some people and find out whatever you can about them.
XXX: What kind of people?
Gibbons: Dirty. Dangerous. Your kind of people.

Gibbons: I noticed that you have three X’s on the back of your neck. That’s appropriate, since your looking at three strikes.

XXX: The things I’m gonna do for my country.

XXX: Dude, you have a bazooka. Stop thinking cop and start thinking Playstation. Blow s**t up!

Virg: Knocked over a few 7-11’s, have we?

XXX: He also wants video games banned because he believes that they’re destroying education… come on Dick, it’s the only education we got.

XXX: I like anything fast enough to do something stupid in.

XXX: I told him that cigarette would kill him one of these days.

Yelena: I’m an agent too. I’ve been undercover for two years.
XXX: Two years? What was your plan? Have them die of old age?

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • The Long Kiss Goodnight
  • Die Hard
  • Goldeneye

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