XXX
***.4 BM
Starring: Vin Diesel, Asia Argento, Samuel L. Jackson, Marton Csokas, Joe Bucaro

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Let it be known that I think James Bond movies are uninteresting and rather aggravating. I will readily admit that I've only actually seen one full Bond film, and that was "Goldeneye," to which I was dragged kicking and screaming and did not enjoy. None of my friends who are fans of Bond have ever denied that each movie contains the exact same plot: "Cool superspy nails chicks and saves the world without breaking a sweat." I could see this gimmick being stretched to three, maybe four films maximum, but to slap this around for TWENTY CRAPPY MOVIES?! WHO STILL FINDS THIS INTERESTING?!

To be fair, though, I have put "Goldfinger" onto my neat-o Netflix list, just to see if Sean Connery's fun charisma can make this limp plot more compelling, or at least more fun than "Goldeneye" was. I doubt it, though.

Now, there comes a movie called "XXX," rated PG-13. That's kinda cute, if somewhat lame. It purports to be a "next generation James Bond." That doesn't make me want to see it, but I figure "well, if I get in on the ground level of THIS thing, maybe I'll start to understand the appeal of the whole Bond malarkey." Plus, this is a make or break movie for my appreciation of Vin Diesel, not to mention director Rob Cohen. There was much riding on this film, at least in my own mind.

As much as this flick wants to subvert and redefine the secret agent film, all it really does is replace the "without breaking a sweat" part of the tired Bond formula and replace it with "and IS TOATLLY XXXTREEME DOOOD!!!!!!!111!!!!1!1!" Yes, ladies and gentlethings, we now have the first Mountain Dew-sponsored superspy. Call your friends and neighbors, tell them that gigantic beverage corporations are now in the business of international espionage. That'll make 'em whip out them flags again.

The story is thus - a tuxedo-wearing secret agent (ho, ho, what a sly jab!) is aced on the job trying to infiltrate a bunch of surly young Rammstein freaks in a group called Anarchy 99, where he sticks out like a sore thumb, calling attention to the glaring need for xtreem doods to be secret agents. Samuel L. Jackson introduces himself as "Gibbons. Augustus Gibbons," which immediately induces laughter at that absurd name, and proceeds to round up xxtereeme doods and Xander Cage, affectionately known as Triple X, or just X (but oddly not Double X) tops the list. Why? Because he's a hooker with a heart of gold, or at least the world-renowned-stuntman/criminal-for-decent-causes-and-won't-sell-out-because-video-game-companies-ask-criminals-to-license-themselves-for-video-games-all-the-time-and-dammit-Xander-Cage-is-in-the-stunt-crime-business-for-the-principles-and-therefore-won't-license-himself-but-wouldn't-it-be-cool-if-there-was-a-Unabomber-game-or-maybe-a-Try-And-Carjack-A-Minivan-Full-Of-Judo-Students-game-but-no-xXx-game-because-that-would-be-some-bad-kind-of-nonchicken-soup-for-the-soul with a heart of gold. So Xander's thrown immediately into spy work, and he succeeds swimmingly, because everyone knows that a brash, loudmouthed tattooed xtreem dood can be effortlessly integrated into NSA mission protocols and immediately grasp delicate and complex international relations without any sort of training.

Of course you know that you have to take nothing seriously in this film or else you will be derided as a humorless little twit. You must appreciate the 'escapist roller-coaster ride of thrills and chills and spills and mandrills and pills and distilled spirits' lest ye be branded a sourpuss party pooper. That taken into account, this flick does manage to deliver on a 'funsies' level. Lots of 'wheee!' and then laughingly swearing at this stupid movie for granting me funsies. Or perhaps I was swearing at the part of my mind that allows funsies at this type of movie, but my general policy is 'if you're having a good time somehow, you shouldn't be angry about it.' The stunts were pretty neat when they weren't snowboarding down railings on a posh dinner tray, and I can still appreciate some well-done kabooms.

The meat of this flick rides on the well-developed and oft-lusted-after Vin Diesel. This guy is becoming an enigma to me. He started off making me happy with The Iron Giant, and I also enjoyed Pitch Black, and thought he was good in Boiler Room, so I want to love the guy. But holy crap did The Fast and The Furious suck harder than a fourth-grader on a frozen chocolate milkshake and, as a result, everybody involved with that steamin' sack o' asscrack now owes me "The Compensatory and The Punitive." That could easily be the fault of Talent Vacuum Paul Walker, but the damage was done and I haven't been able to look at Shaq Diesel the same way again. I was prepared to hate this movie, until I was informed that in reality, Diesel was and still is an active "Dungeons & Dragons" nerd. That was entirely unexpected and very endearing to learn, putting a little positive spin back on him. The resulting dichotomy is very apparent here, as half the time, Big Daddy Cool Diesel has this fun charm, charisma and watchable persona that manages to make the insanity he's selling worth the market price, and the other half of the time, he's drawling out stupid lines like he's a retarded Stallone, which makes the quick-witted think-on-his-feet character that much harder to buy. This could be the fault of the dialog, though, which leaves plenty to be desired. It's stuffed to the gills with awkward 'hip teen culture' references and 'please think I'm a cool rebel' quips that don't always work.

So the jury's still out on Vinnie Barbadiesel, and the supporting cast is also a little hit-or-miss. Jackson's role isn't all that much, but he's Sam Jackson, and there's plenty of set-up for a sequel, where we will obviously be treated to a dramatic flashback sequence that explains just how Augustus Gibbons got his characteristic facial scarring, when that villain returns to PLAUGE US ALLL AND IT IZ UP TO YUO THREE X MAN TO STOP HIM THSI TIME BECUZE GIBONZ IZ TOO OLD!!!!1!1!!! Asia Argento as the hardly mysterious mystery woman makes a decent enough 'X Girl,' and Marton Csokas is passable as the greasy villain. The 'Q' equivalent here, however, is desperately trying to be the 'likable comic relief geek' and is just an annoyingly bland little monkey kid.

Overall, though, I have to admit that a fun time was had while viewing this movie, and I suppose this is a similar sort of enjoyment that Bond fans seem to experience when watching twenty slightly different versions of the same movie over and over. A word of warning, however: if this concept is stretched beyond three movies, maximum, I shall be among the first to call for a bloody revolution against Revolution Studios. Heads will be on pikes. The bright side, though, is that the porno spoofs of this movie won't have to be all that inventively titled.

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