xXx

xXx (12A)

Brawny Vin (Pitch Black) Diesel is the star of xXx (pronounced Triple X) – a noisy, action-packed wannabe rival to the James Bond films – in which an extreme sports enthusiast is enlisted by the US Government to become its newest maverick agent.

In what is clearly the first of a hoped-for franchise director Rob Cohen re-teams with the muscle-bound star of his previous adventure The Fast and the Furious and bolsters his performance with a succession of spectacular stunts that occasionally put the 007 series to shame.

As Xander Cage, Diesel is perfect casting for the gung-ho, tattooed hero who, in the tradition of Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita, is singled out for some special treatment by scarred super-spook Samuel L. Jackson, an American  ‘M’ derivative in an obvious, visible toupee. Throw in Italian sexpot Asia Argento as Xander’s hard-as-nails lover interest, some thoroughly nasty Russian gangsters with an eye of world domination (hey-ho, I hear you say) and a succession of villainous types and xXx shouts its origins from the rooftops.

This is a spy movie for the MTV generation. In other words, it’s fast, furious and occasionally funny, and targeted firmly at the teen market. Jaw-dropping setpiece stunts – including a motorcycle jump through razor wire and a truly spectacular avalanche sequence that could reasonably be described as the best ever seen on film – are sensationally executed but are wasted on a movie like this. Where’s 007 when you need him for a witty riposte?

In a lacklustre script Diesel gets the only half-decent lines, memorable stunts and special effects. He enjoys himself enormously, but the film’s wham-bam approach rapidly wears out its welcome as it becomes apparent that he lacks charisma and relies on tough looks and muscle flexing to impress his audience.

This is James Bond without the finesse, class or intelligence – an overblown video game with a star who can’t cut it. Even Jackson looks bored. An example of the turgid writing has one villain screaming “Catch him fast. Kill him slow”. And that’s meant to be deadly serious.

If Cohen and Diesel wanted to make a spectacular movie, they’ve succeeded, because xXx is spectacular in its utter ineptitude, tedium and the bad scripting of Rich (Airheads) Wilkes.

You can, however, guarantee a sequel. My vote is that the makers call it XXXX. Then audiences all over the world can have fun supplying their own title…

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