U.S. Release Date:
August 9, 2002
Distributor: Sony (Revolution)
Director: Rob Cohen
Producer: Vin Diesel (executive), Neal H. Moritz, George Zakk (executive)
Composer: Randy Edelman
Cast: Vin Diesel, Samuel L. Jackson
Running Time: 1 hour and 53 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (violence, non-stop action sequences, sensuality, drug content and language)
Shortly after The World is Not Enough came out, a friend handed me an essay about the future of James Bond. The author of this essay basically felt that it was time for the James Bond series to end or be reinvigorated into something different. Apparently director Rob Cohen, executive producer/star Vin Diesel, and scriptwriter Rich Wilkes took this essay as their jumping off point for XXX, since it's essentially a Bond picture punked up for the 21st century.
The movie opens with a Bondesque agent, dressed in tuxedo and bow tie, stumbling into a rock concert in Prague with the bad guys' secret plans, and then gets offed in short order by said bad guys. Enter Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), the antithesis of Bond (or whatever the dead fellow in the opening sequence was named). Called "X" by his friends, Xander is a free-spirited, car stealing, tattooed, extreme sports rebel without a cause until Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), a director at the NSA, gives him one. What follows is a typical spy picture with "X" being thrust undercover into the dangerous world of Prague to discover exactly what the bad guys are up to—in this case a group of disaffected Russian Army deserters called Anarchy 99. There's the beautiful girl (Asia Argento) who isn't what she appears to be, the gadgets, a cool gun, loads of stunts and a story, which is paper thin—although timely (it involves biological weapons). It's different, but all too familiar at the same time.
The saving grace is Diesel who is engaging, intelligent and likeable. The script doesn't give him much to work with dramatically, but it's obvious that he's having a good time, and the lame clichéd lines as delivered by Diesel are at least passable. Diesel is destined to be a big star, and he deserves to be, but not because of XXX.
With the exception of Diesel and Jackson, the rest of the cast is strictly B grade, particularly Argento, who as fetching as she may be is far from being anything resembling a good actress. Martin Csokas plays the villainous Yorgi (Yorgi? Even in the bad Bond flicks, the bad guy had a cool name) and has his moments, but they're few and far between and are not helped by his atrocious Russian accent.
The movie starts out exciting enough with a couple of clever sequences of X being "trained" by the NSA. It then shifts to the mission and Prague, and it is here that Bond-itis sets in. Everything is reminiscent of 007, which makes XXX ultimately a pedestrian retread. And herein lies the fundamental problem. It's all been done before and better. Just watch Dr. No or Goldfinger. We can only hope that the next installment of the XXX franchise will truly be something different.
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