Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sam Jackson Jumps The Shark In A Cheap, Dumb Spy Flick: XXX

The Good: Vin Diesel's Acting
The Bad: Predictable Plot, Pointlessness, Poor Supporting Performances, Lack of Character
The Basics: When a punk is recruited to be a secret agent, the audience walks out.

Someone I respect quite a bit told me to keep an eye on Vin Diesel; she said that he had real presence in Pitch Black (reviewed here!) and he was worth watching. If it hadn't been for her, I probably never would have watched XXX. As it was, I got the movie out from the library and I was quite happy that I paid no money to see it. My friend was right; Diesel has screen presence. Besides that, XXX was a dud.

When Xander Cage does one too many extreme sports stunts to the wrong person, he gets the attention of Agent Augustus Gibbons. Gibbons recruits Cage to be a new kind of expendable secret agent. Extorted and feeling he has no other choice, Xander - code named Triple X - infiltrates a Russian mob that has been smuggling automobiles. He quickly learns that the mob is delving into chemical weapons and their anarchist plans are likely to kill quite a few people.

The problem with XXX is that we've seen it all before. We've seen a spy flick and XXX is worse than the very worst James Bond movie. We have seen movies where an unlikely person is recruited to help the government (Aliens comes instantly to mind as a similar situation that was executed far better) and we have all seen action movies that actually entertain us.

XXX does none of those things. It does not entertain, it is not original and it is not even interesting. Instead, XXX follows the exact same formula as pretty much any Bond movie with rather predictable moments of reversal and "surprise." The audience, however, is not surprised because we have seen all of the same tricks before. Like any spy flick, the hero encounters the bad guy, escapes, is recaptured before a final climactic battle . . . it's all of the cliches.

The saddest note is that supporting case is terrible. Samuel L. Jackson, a truly great actor with a wonderful career, participates in this celluloid nightmare and I cannot fathom why. His character is never fully explored and any meaningful chance to delve into his mysterious, burned character is skipped in lieu of snowboarding, skydiving and other stunt-intensive acts. Jackson gives up trying about midway through the movie, losing his screen presence and any energy he had for the role.

But Jackson is not the worst. Not by far. Yorgi, played by Marton Csokas, is anything but villainous. Csokas plays him too close to parody with a ridiculous accent that seems over the top. Asia Argento, who plays Xander's obvious love interest, is bland and horrible. She never seems to get into the role, instead always seeming like an actor playing a part. From the moment she first appears on the screen, the audience fails to believe in her. She had absolutely no charisma.

Add to the line-up of bad actors a character that is not field trained thrown in for comic relief as the gadget maker and you have a pretty horrible movie. XXX is mostly unwatchable with its sweeping action sequences, lack of any intelligent dialog and a complete void of anything remotely original for a spy movie.

The culmination of this movie's poor sense of style is the overbearing soundtrack of modern rock music. The music does not remain in the background, instead it often drowns out the visuals with its heavy thrashing. In the end, much of the music is just loud, doing nothing to enhance the mood of the movie.

XXX is marketed toward teenagers and the saddest comment on our society today might be that Xander's "blow it all up!" attitude actually serves as entertainment to the young people of today. Even with his gravitas, Vin Diesel cannot save this lemon of a film.

For other movies with Samuel L. Jackson, please visit my reviews of:
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Other Guys
Iron Man 2
The Clone Wars
Iron Man
The Star Wars Prequel Trilogy
The Red Violin
Jurassic Park


For other movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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