xXx

XXX is exactly what it seems to be: James Bond for short attention spans, and o less fun for that. This high-gloss pile driver cares nothing for haracter, buildup or wit, just the next thrill, the next babe, the next hance for star Vin Diesel to bust his ass on a stunt. XXX will be huge, and ouble that for Diesel. The guy talks like he gargles with glass, but he's a ynamite screen presence. How's his acting? Sheesh. Acting would only get in he way.

Diesel plays Xander Cage, an extreme-sports athlete recruited by National Security Agency biggie Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) to infiltrate a Russian gang in Prague. Led by Yorgi (Marton Csokas) and his lover Yelena (Asia Argento), the gang is bent on — what else? — destroying the world.

Xander has no training to stop them. He previously spent his days pulling such stunts as stealing a senator's Corvette, base-jumping the car off a bridge and selling the video for a quick buck. Agent Gibbons tests Xander further by dropping him into a Colombian cocaine plantation, from which Xander escapes on a motorbike while dodging helicopter gunfire. "I live for this shit," says Xander, which just about sums up the appeal of this movie. In Prague, Agent Xander — now christened Triple X for the trio of X's tattooed on the back of his neck — finds more trouble, including a fling with Yelena, who comes at him in spike-heeled boots, sticks her tongue down his throat, asks him if he likes it and then tells him that's all he's going to get. Argento, bless her, gives the role a slinky, teasing perversity rare in PG-13 movies. But even after Xander beds a more available babe ("The things I'm gonna do for my country," he quips 007-style) it's clear that sex isn't the fuel driving the script by Rich Wilkes (The Jerky Boys: The Movie). Action is, and director Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious) loads the film with pow: Xander surfing down a banister on a tray, Xander snowboarding down a mountain in front of an avalanche. There's even Xander facing the ultimate terror given his intellectual capacity: a rehearsal of Don Giovanni at the Prague State Opera. "That's cruel and unusual," he tells Gibbons. It's hard to hate a movie, even one this droolingly crass, that knows how to laugh at itself.

From The Archives Issue 904: September 5, 2002