SHOULD 18 YEAR-OLDS WATCH “XXX?”

CRITIC DOCTOR EXAMINES:

Vince Leo (home.earthlink.net/~qwipster/xxx.htm), Lisa Schwarzbaum (ew.com), Roger Ebert (suntimes.com), Tim Cogshell (boxoffice.com), Steve Rae (philly.com), Robin Clifford (reelingreviews.com), Michael Elliott (christiancritic.com), Jeffrey Westhoff (nwhearld.com), Rick Kisonak (filmthreat.com), Stephen Hunter (Washingtonpost.com), Tor Thorsen (reel.com), Luke Thompson (newtimesla.com), Joe Baltake (sacbee.com), Maitland McDonagh (tvguide.com)

* * (out of 4 stars)

I never thought a movie called XXX would have a PG-13 rating, but Vin Diesel’s new film makes it all too possible.

XXX is a movie about Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), an extreme-sports Internet phenomenon. He accomplishes daredevil feats that would scare the devil; and his illegal stunts land him in the hands of a U.S. spy organization. They force him to utilize his tattoos and edgy personality to penetrate an organization of evildoers who want to destroy government through chemical warfare. Xander’s mission puts his life in danger at every corner. XXX is a James Bond-like movie with three times the action!

Vince Leo (Qwipster’s Movie Reviews) said, “If action and explosions are all you are looking for, then ‘XXX’ does deliver the goods, but the delivery comes too often and doesn’t know when to quit.”

Leo’s not lying! We see boats, bikes, planes, avalanches, snowmobiles, explosions and explosions and – explosions! Most of it is repetitious, overblown and unneeded. Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly) said, “Cohen is fetish-fond of midair instant replays. When Cage, straddling a screaming motorcycle, leaps a burning building in a Colombian drug lord’s raided hideaway (that’s another story), the money shot — no exceptional moment of cinematography in the first place — is repeated from every angle, then repeated again.”

This repetitiveness is distracting. Watching a motorcycle practically fly in the air and manipulate over rooftops made me wonder if Vin was driving a Ninja!

Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) said, “In it’s own punk way, ‘XXX’ is as good as a good Bond movie, and that’s saying something.” All that says, Roger, is that your definition of a “good Bond movie” includes “recent” Bond movies and that’s not good. Ebert’s ratings are as follows: Goldeneye 1995 (***), “Tomorrow Never Dies” 1997 (***), and “World Is Not Enough” 1999 (*** ½). In my opinion, Roger’s ratings of Bond movies are as overblown as the action is in “XXX!” Though Roger admits “XXX” is brainless fun, he nearly gave the movie four stars! I think the plot is so dumb that even 18 year-olds should think twice about watching “XXX.”

- “It’s big and noisy and full of stunts and action-hero moments. And, like a Bond film, it’s not all that good.”
Tim Cogshell (boxoffice.com)

- “It’s got the brawn, but not the brains.”
Steve Rae (philly.com)

- “I wanted more substance to go along with flash.”
Robin Clifford (reelingreviews.com)

- “It is James Bond on steroids. If only steroids were also known to build intelligence, these filmmakers might have had something.”
Michael Elliott (christiancritic.com)

“XXX” may be as dumb as recent Bond films, but it almost gets away with it – for two main reasons. Jeffrey Westhoff (nwherald.com) nailed one, “The major difference is director Rob Cohen has fun with the formula, while the Bond filmmakers lately have forgotten fun.”

The movie does have its fun moments with some amazing action, humor, and other guilty pleasures, which leads me to my next reason why this movie isn’t a total failure – Vin Diesel. He doesn’t take himself serious like James Bond and this allows us, again, to have more fun with this movie.

Rick Kisonak (filmthreat.com) said, “Somehow I managed to miss ‘Pitch Black’ and ‘The Fast and the Furious’ so this was my first opportunity to behold the big V’s unique charisma and screen appeal. I have to say the experience left me baffled, half-deaf and fearful for the future of western culture.”

For the love of God, Rick! Go rent Pitch Black and The Fast and the Furious. These movies are much better examples of Vin’s work. “XXX” is pretty darn dumb, but Diesel manages to make this movie fun to watch, unlike Pierce Brosnan’s recent Bond roles. Now that does say something – Diesel saved this film from total ruin:

- “He is the film, and watching him – he’s got a big cat’s athletic moves, a New Yorker’s smart-guy attitude and all them scuzzy ‘toos – is a lot more fun than staying with the ever-feebler Pierce Brosnan…”
Stephen Hunter (Washingtonpost.com)

- “And although ‘XXX’ isn’t nearly as good as it could’ve been, it does prove one thing: No matter what the price, Diesel is worth it.”
Tor Thorsen (reel.com)

- “Let’s face it, even Vin’s fake tats have more charisma than Pierce Brosnan.”
Luke Thompson (newtimesla.com)

- “Diesel makes poor Pierce Brosnan, the current James Bond, seem not only middle-aged (which, of course, he is) but also fussy, effete and sadly out-of-date.”
Joe Baltake (sacbee.com)

This franchise does have potential with Diesel in the driver’s seat, but it must steer away from the Bond model to make any kind of bond with the audience (read Ebert’s review – he lists 6 major comparisons). Xander’s love interest Yelena (Asia Argento) is interesting and beautiful, but her character is not utilized enough. Why didn’t someone come up with an original story in the first place? Though we’ve seen everything in this movie before, my favorite scene involves a cigarette and I recommend every smoker watch this movie.

I hope when the sequels take off, the action scenes are more realistic and support a real plot – not just thrown in for the sake of action.

Maitland McDonagh (TV Guide) summed the film up best: “The movie isn’t hard to watch; it zips along at a good clip, never wasting time on exposition when there’s something to break. But the irony is that for all its ‘not your father’s spy movie’ posing, it’s exactly like the later James Bond pictures: predictable, lightweight and 100 percent disposable.”

XXX avoids a one star rating from me because of one big star – Vin Diesel. Give Diesel an original story to work with and XXX sequels may indeed be required viewing for 18 year-olds and above.

- CRITIC DOCTOR




Posted on August 20, 2002 in Features by
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