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xXx (2002)
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Review Date: August 02, 2002
Director: Rob Cohen
Writer: Rich Wilkes
Producers: Neil H. Moritz
Actors:
Vin Diesel
Samuel L. Jackson
Asia Argento
Plot:
An extreme sports rebel is recruited by the U.S. government to infiltrate an underground band of roughnecks in Prague. Skydiving, racing, biking and boarding his way through various adventures, the man makes sure to remove his shirt every now and again, kiss the girl along the way and take a shot at saving the world. Vin Diesel ensues.
Critique:
Definitely not the perfect all-out summer popcorn movie that I was expecting, XXX still managed to deliver plenty of extreme action sequences as well as Vin Diesel at his most Vin Dieselest, to make up for some of its more obvious liabilities. For anyone who has read any of my reviews of past Diesel flicks, you already know that I think the man rocks the house, so remember that as you read this review, which is likely to be slightly tainted by my childlike adoration for the big goof (I probably would have scored it one point lower if not for his Dieselness). Having said that, get ready to be pressed deep back into your seat during this film's first 40 minutes, which basically juggernauts its way through some nifty "getting to know you" and test sequences, as well as action up the friggin' wazoo (holy slo-mo, Batman!). We get super-loud music, we get super-cool stunts and we get Vin Diesel as the biggest badass this side of Samuel L. Jackson (cashing that paycheck), all intermixed with skydiving, motorbikes and plenty of cheesy over-the-top spy gobbledygook. Of course, I always feel the need to remind anyone who is going into this movie to "take it seriously" to stop in their tracks right now and move on to GOSFORD PARK or something of the sort, because this baby is overloaded with mozzarella and plenty of phony-baloney goodness. It's also got a handful of hilarious one-liners delivered by gasoline himself, tremendous stunt pieces that make very little real sense (the scene in which Diesel out-snowboards a massive avalanche is the wickedest of them all!) and puffy entertainment, which just enough Vin and balls-out action to overlook its various negative strokes.

For one, the so-called chemistry and romance between Diesel and Argento sucks in this film-it basically feels and looks forced, and I didn't buy it for one bare-chested second. Second of all, the whole "bad guy" underworld featuring these one-note Russian nasties was lame as heck. The leader of the group was especially boring and lifeless, as well as their dialogue and monologues, which were particularly horrid (the scene in which the lackluster leader surprises his scientist buddies was probably one of the most idiotic things that I've seen in some time and his reason for being so evil-even stupider). The whole film also ended on a somewhat anti-climactic note with the final "chase" sequence not blowing me away as much as several of the previous action scenes did before it. The film was also blatantly tailored to 13-year olds (ironic that I dug it, eh?) with plenty of mentions of video games, hip music, skateboarding and no swearing...tsk-tsk! (it's gotta make the PG-13 cut, boys and chicks). Of course, most of these concerns were pushed aside whenever Mr. Diesel popped back on-screen with his gruffy voice, his "fuck you" attitude and his pumped up biceps, as he demonstrated once more why's he's being touted as the next big "action hero" movie .

Diesel basically takes a limp plotline, juices it up with his own brand of charm and abs, and as a whole...makes it work. Director Cohen also ups the ante with plenty of heavy tunes, hot cars and sexy ladies, all of which make for a fun over-the-top American MTV popcorn James Bond with relish (and a little mustard...on the side). Love it or leave it, this flick is sure to charge the blood coursing through your veins during its more extreme scenes and reinforce your own need to get rid of your beer belly and wear ugly men's fur coats (don't ask me, dude...but it works!). "I don't play that game!"-sure you do, Vin...sure you do. The only question is...where do I sign up?
(c) 2014 Berge Garabedian
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