Monday, April 9, 2012

xXx


  Director Rob Cohen's xXx is a total Vin Diesel vehicle. And while it has its moments, it should work better than it does. I'm pretty sure that xXx was a direct response to the James Bond franchise. Only, instead of doing a simple James Bond retread, the idea was to find a muscle-bound icon of current 'cool' to headline the secret agent role. Replace the suave Englishman and his well tailored suits; instead we have pimp coats and hard rock/hip hop music in place of such 007 trappings. Cool nicknames must be catchy, short, and easy to fit into a repeat gimmick. Bond had 007. Xander Cage (Diesel) has XXX. Oh my! It’s even tattooed on the back of his neck. That’s so cool.

  So much of this movie seems self obsessed with how 'cool' its protagonist is. The whole premise is that undercover cops are too text book and they need an undercover man who's hip to whole current scene. So? Solution? Force a well known criminal to do your dirty work for you. It’s such a self serving premise. Like the movies where the plot makes an excuse for the cute dog to play basketball or for monkey's to team up with secret agents. It’s ludicrous. Those are extreme examples, and xXx's plot isn't that horrible. It just is a simple excuse to take a street thug and make him a secret agent. The excuse is the plot, and the plot is an excuse. There are also quite a few excuses to have Xander on a BMX motorcycle, snowboard, or hanging from a parachute every five minutes. Oh that’s right, I forgot to mention, he’s not just any street thug… he happens to be a vastly popular extreme sports personality. Way to go Vin!

  I will be fair and point out that the movie itself is not entirely without merit. Vin Diesel does what he can with the character and surprisingly he works best in the humorous moments. That’s not to say that he doesn’t pull off ‘badass’ quite well, but to say he nails the entire role 100% would be far too generous. That’s the same with the movie overall, it doesn’t quite get it right. Not all the way. Its definitely the stuff popcorn films are made of. Sexy women, international spies, large explosions, cool looking cars and gadgets galore. But something is simply off. The story feels downright cartoonish at times, and some of the action scenes look corny. If it had focused more on being its own beast, and not a James Bond homage, it might’ve been better.

  Samuel L. Jackson is in here. And he sleepwalks through his role as Diesel’s recruiter; playing a character we’ve seen from him dozens of time. Although it’s nothing new, it’s actually quite a fun character to watch. Jackson brings him to life, providing a decent counterbalance for Diesel’s rampant recklessness. Xander cage is told to infiltrate a Russian gang, bent on destroying the world with chemical weapons. To accomplish this task, he’s given unlimited access to field resources. So many guns and gadgets he’d have James Bond and Ethan Hunt jealous as all can be. Speaking of Ethan Hunt, M:I:II tried to be a James Bond homage. It wound up feeling like a rip off. If there’s any great compliment I can level at xXx, is that it succeeds in being an homage.

  The movie itself is as self indulgent as its own protagonist. It finds every reason possible to jump off cliffs, show loud clubbing party scenes full of scantily clad women, blow up cars, get into chases, and shoot things. This isn’t such a bad thing. But it feels forced sometimes. The movie has dated rather poorly too. It languishes in the styles and music of the late late 90’s and early 00’s. Some of it is facepalmingly bad. And surprisingly, some of it works. Getting down to the bottom line here, xXx is consistently fun; sure, however it does have plenty of missteps in it. When it’s good, its great fun, when it’s bad, it just feels awkward. Vin Diesel does a lot to keep it in the “guilty pleasure” section and out of “total waste”. His charisma is always fun to watch and he’s an ideal action figure to gallivant around looking cool while blowing things up. That’s xXx in a nutshell.

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