XXX (2003) 

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Vin Diesel
Asia Argento
Martin Csokas
Samuel L. Jackson
Michael Roof
Richy Muller
Werner Dahn
Petr Jakl
Jan Pavel Filipensky

Rob Cohen



Time: 124 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action/Thriller

When it comes to action movies, I now find myself yearning for the overindulgence of the 80s blockbusters, as opposed to the utter mindlessness of those created in the new millennium. The explosions may be bigger and better produced, but the new "heroes" lack the charisma, honor and intelligence that distinguish them from their foes and makes them a character you want to root for, as well as spend time with. Unlike many action stars, Diesel actually looks like he can take care of himself and he has a voice that curls the toes, however those qualities are not enough to make him a compelling action hero. He just doesn't have the chops to carry the lead alone; though I'm not sure anyone acting today could have made XXX watchable. His character is a famous X-Games athelete who occasionally finds himself on the wrong side of the law. Instead of going to prison under the "Three Strikes" rule, he agrees to put his talent for escaping from dangerous situations to work for the government.

Not that Samuel L. Jackson's character gives him much of a choice. After some dubious, quasi-training they send him behind enemy lines in Prague to infiltrate a local gang of thieves and murderers to find out what they're really up to. Jackson is convinced there's more to these pimps and drug dealers than meets the eye. While that turns out to be the case, the truth behind their activities is nothing new or very interesting. Their illegal activities do give Xander ample opportunities to play super spy, using his prodigious skills to battle the bad guys, save the people of Prague and win the heart of the requisite tough girl, played unconvincingly by Argento. While the plot is nothing special, the action sequences and art direction (Prague is a beautiful city) are almost good enough to overcome its' ridiculous nature. The trouble is Diesel. He's much better in small doses playing a mean, unstable SOB. He's clearly not comfortable being the good guy and is unable to toss off the script's attempts at witty one-liners with any sort of charm or humor. Granted the dialogue is terrible, however, the more he tries to be cute and clever the more painful his performance gets.


"Dude, you have a bazooka. Stop thinking Prague Police and start thinking Playstation."

As tired as I was by the constant barrage on my senses, at least the action gave Diesel the opportunity to do what he does best: kick the crap out of other human beings. Even Samuel L. Jackson's presence doesn't help because he phones in this performance. Not that the character is much different from any other recent mean-spirited, government official roles. What's become abundantly clear in the last few years is that he'll take part in any film as long as there's a big check involved. His films have been hit and miss since SHAFT and he picks another clunker here. I'm sure he's laughing all the way to the bank. I guess those enamored with video games will hardly mind the bad acting and worthless plot since all they're looking for is action, action, action, which XXX delivers. Personally, I'm going to continue to shun this genre, waiting to watch them for free, until Hollywood decides to reintroduce brains into their brawn. Believe me, I won't be holding my breath.

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