xXx


This coulda been a contender… Sadly, it’s not. I was talking to my friend Johnny Dee Master Magician after I saw the movie and when he asked me how it was, my short answer was “Ordinary”, to which he retorted “It looks ordinary.” And then it hit me. I was finally able to see past my shameless Vin Diesel fandom and realise that I shouldn’t be surprised that “xXx” isn’t much good at all. It could NOT have been a contender. Even the filmmakers weren’t going for greatness. They’re making product, trying to tap into young audiences into extreme sports for no noble reason than to cash in.

And what to make of Rob Cohen? For a second there, last summer, when his The Fast and the Furious turned out to be way more fun than it has any business being, I figured he was a director to watch. Surely his take on secret agent movies would be a blast, right? Wrong. Now it all comes back: Cohen isn’t a hot new talent, he’s a 53 year old hack who made such lousy flicks as “Dragonheart”, “Daylight” and “The Skulls”. Granted, “xXx” is not as bad as those, but it’s no The Fast and the Furious either. It’s about as good as, say, Swordfish. A few choice action scenes, some enjoyable performances, then a lot of forgettable stuff.

Diesel stars as Xander “X” Cage, a danger-loving “friendly terrorist” who hosts “The Xander Zone”, an Internet show in which his minions and him pull outrageous pranks on the Man, like driving a conservative Senator’s car off a bridge. In these early scenes, the movie shows much promise. Diesel is one charismatic bad-ass, obviously, and I liked the irreverent anti-establishment bravado of his character, somehow reminiscent of Tyler Durden’s Space Monkeys. I also dug the hell of the introduction of the eventual villains, the Absinthe-drinking, Eurotrash gothic-ravers who call themselves “Anarchy 1999”, which takes place during a demented show of the German industrial band Rammstein!

Even when X is recruited against his will to work for secret government services, “La Femme Nikita”-style, the movie remains fresh and fun, thanks in part to Sam Jackson’s Gibbons, X’s immediate superior, further proof that Jackson would be perfectly cast as comic book antihero Nick Fury. But then the film gradually deflates, losing all of its quirks and edge until it becomes no more no less than your average James Bond picture. A few shoot-outs, a bunch of big explosions, a misogynist depiction of women in general (save for Asia Argento, as the sole female on screen who seems to be more than walking tits-and-tails)… All of which is directed with little invention or basic sense of how to get an audience on the edge of their seats.

There are a few nifty stunts with parachutes, dirt bikes or with a snowboard, but for the most part this IS your father’s secret agent movie, down to the predictable third act chase against the clock to stop the launch of a deadly rocket. Yawn. “xXx” is derivative, overblown and not half as exciting as it should be. I love to see Diesel getting closer to becoming the next big action star, as it confirms the impression he made on me years ago in Pitch Black, but I wish he’d ditch Rob Cohen and associate himself with the likes of John Woo or James Cameron.