Worth A Look: 13.41%
Pretty Bad: 15.85%
Total Crap: 49.39%
5 reviews, 134 user ratings
by Scott Weinberg
The producers of the new spy turkey XXX purportedly see the project as a "James Bond for the next generation". Sure, I could see that; if our 'next generation' is comprised solely of blithering idiots, that is.What a ridiculous and poorly made train-wreck of a film this is. Those who've seen at least three spy flicks can predict literally every single twist and turn, and those with a healthy respect for the way physics works will giggle uncontrollably for about 100 minutes. Several action flicks will ask viewers to sit back and "turn their brain off" while the movie unspools; XXX asks you to turn your brain off, kick it across the movie theater like a soccer ball and then urinate all over it. XXX doesn't circumvent intelligence; it despises it.
"X-cessively, X-tremely...Shit, it's just plain BAD."
With a plot culled from movies as similar as La Femme Nikita, Point of No Return, Bad Company and just about any other film featuring more than three helicopters, XXX is three or four loud and inane action sequences mired amidst a movie so low-rent and shoddy that you'd expect it to be found on Cinemax at 4:00 AM. And even then you wouldn't watch it.
Allegedly the newly-crowned 'King of the Action Flicks' Vin Diesel plays Xander Cage, who is a sort of daredevil/felon/social activist as the movie opens. After a moronic opening in which Big X steals a senator's car and drives it off a bridge before escaping via parachute, the mono-syllabic wanker is chosen to be a covert American operative. Our 'hero' is tested in a few painfully contrived scenarios, before he's given his first assignment: go to Prague and infiltrate an underground Russian terrorist group.
Plot means nothing in this movie, regardless of how good or bad it may be. (And believe me, it's bad.) What matters is the reportedly "wall-to-wall" action that director Rob Cohen (filmmaker behind the equally stupid Fast and the Furious) tries to shoehorn in at every conceivable dry spell. Unfortunately, this movie's dry spells outnumber the action scenes by a healthy 5:1 ratio.
And what about these 'oh-so-extreme' action scenes? I dunno. Seems to me like the unwieldly combination of "extreme sports" and "spy movie action" would be a ridiculous marriage at best, yet that doesn't stop the filmmakers from delivering scene after scene that exasperate and annoy more than they do excite and titillate. (The last time I saw such a pitiful attempt at "action combined with..." something, I was watching a movie called Gymkata.) I mean, what's the point of offering an action sequence that NOT ONLY defies every law of physics known to man...but then to deliver the scene in a gaudy slo-mo style?? Talk about sticking your flaws under a magnifying glass! XXX contains visual moments so astronomically ridiculous that you wouldn't buy them as part of a Looney Tunes cartoon, let alone in a film that claims to take place on Earth.
A movie can be stupid and still succeed; to revel in such stupidity and repeatedly call attention to the permeating lack of sense is simply bad filmmaking. Since the screenplay seems like something written over the course of one cable TV-filled weekend, it's only logical to expect that the action scenes should be an improvement over the "plot stuff". I counted five action scenes, none of which were more entertaining than hearing a villain scream through his walkie-talkie "Catch him fast! Kill him slow!" (OK, that line is actually delivered via subtitles, but reading it makes it all the more ridiculous!)
Vin Diesel (who I truly admired back when he was a struggling actor and therefore had to actually "act" for a living) mumbles through the lead role as if he hates the universe. If this is the guy we're supposed to get behind, perhaps the inevitable sequel will take some pains to create an actual character instead of this vapid cipher with dark shades, an eternal glower, and one truly ugly fur coat. The rest of the cast is as generic as the film's title (more on that in a bit), with Samuel L. Jackson adding yet another "sleepwalk" performance to his overloaded filmography and Asia Argento (in full-on Helena Bonham Carter-wannabe mode) sneering and glowering at every turn.
The villains are painfully one-note and uninteresting, an edict one can only assume came attached to the one that read "No character can be more interesting than the painfully one-note hero." In at least that one respect, it seems the filmmakers accomplished what they set out to do. This is Diesel's show all the way, and although the poor schlub is consistently damned by XXX's interminably bad screenplay, the actor simply doesn't have the chops to elevate the role into something worth watching.
The film has an insultingly pandering attitude towards women, features some of the most howlingly awful dialogue since last February's Rollerball fiasco, moves at a (dead) snail's pace in between the explosions and motorcycle flips, and consistently insults its own audience when the unrealistic and poorly photographed action bits manage to lurch onscreen. The big avalanche sequence you've seen in all the commercials seems created solely to construct the world's loudest scene without bothering to make it visually cohesive or even exciting!
But am I maybe being a bit too hard an a stupid action movie that clearly knows that it's a stupid action movie? Nah. Seemingly geared directly (and solely) for 14-year-old boys with more taste for kinetic action than an interest in common sense, XXX still fails in the most basic of action movie requirements: it's not exciting, and it's not any real fun. When the strongest reaction you get from every action scene is "Oh come ON!" followed by about 11 involuntary 'eye-rolls' directed at any audience member who may be looking your way, you're dealing with a movie that swings right past "ridiculous but fun" and right into "Plain. Old. Stupid."
It's odd that MGM studios would take exception with New Line's "Goldmember" character, when this XXX travesty all but blatantly plagiarizes the James Bond character as a whole. (No kidding, it's all here: the babes, the gadgets, the trademark theme music, etc.) Hey, here's a note to whichever filmmaker aims to create the "next James Bond": try not to rip off the series you're trying to surpass with the subtlety of a loud screaming fart and then claim to have "created the next James Bond"! You guys haven't created anything; you stole from the Bond series mercilessly, and then amplified the stupidity by about 200 degrees. That's not the "next" anything; that's just a bunch of lazy filmmakers cashing an easy paycheck.Oh yeah, the title. Our sweaty hero likes to be called "Triple X". He thinks it sounds neat. In my mind, "XC" would make more sense, in that his name is Xander Cage. (Maybe his name should have been "Xander Xavier Xylophone"?) But again, I'm looking for logic in a film that absolutely revels in its own stupidity like a pig rolls about in his own...swill. Call me a cold-hearted curmudgeon for not being able to enjoy a 'mindless action movie', but I'm of the opinion that a movie can be mindless without being the peak of all things insipid.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=6056&reviewer=128
originally posted: 08/09/02 12:54:49