Last night, we had a going away party for a close friend of mine (she's moving back to NJ), so consequentially, I was a bit hung over this morning. After my headache went away, I was left with nothing to do, and a hankering for something loud, fast, and dumb. I hit the jackpot with xXx
; it's probably the best we could hope for from a film aimed squarely at 13 year old boys and Vin Diesel's legion of female fans (which includes the majority of the women in my department at work). Perhaps, my perceptions were affected by my low expectations. Even though I loved the last Rob Cohen-Vin Diesel film, The Fast and the Furious
, I didn't expect a repeat of that film. True enough, xXx
lacked the former film's genre purity and it's modicum of existential and moral complexity. That leaves the excess and bombast left over. Even though I am having trouble remembering the film now, I do remember liking and being reasonably entertained, so I guess the excess and bombast were enough. Of course, it helps that the film did not take itself too seriously, I mean Xander Cage, new NSA agent (when did the NSA over take the CIA in movieland?), is saving the good ol' US of A from insane Eurotrash. Oily haired, tatooed, rave loving, Russian Eurotrash to be exact.
Actually the film is pretty much a complete rip-off of the James Bond template, if instead of a witty, urbane, stylish, British Cold War relic was replaced by a loud-mouth, adrenaline junkie American. Our local alt press critic gave a pretty succinct description of the movie when he said it embodied the ethos of the those Mountain Dew commmercials (which is not surprising given that the newest Mountain Dew commercials cannibalize shots from The Fast and the Furious
), with a weird mixture of anti-authoritarianism (or more correctly, do it yourself, don't tread on me individualism) and flag-waving patriotism, as Vin Diesel's Xander Cage experiences a stirring of his innner patriot. As I said, this film borrows liberally from the plot of James Bond commericials, including a bit of undercover work, with sex, some nightlife, with sex, the main female character switching allegiances, with sex, lots of gadgets, with sex(ual innudendo), the attack on the enemy fortress by the indigenous forces (sadly, without sex), and even an elaborate credit sequences, though this time it's the end credit sequence (also there's the insane hero ranting to a captured Cage before he is executed, revealing his plans). Fortunately, Xander Cage's status as extreme athlete and criminal at least gives him a plausible reason for being able to do what he does, unlike James Bond. The change in characterization and era is emphasized by the beginning of the film, were an NSA agent in Prague is dispatched by the evil Eurotrash. The agent, nattily dressed in a tuxedo, walks from the quaint medieval streets of Prague right into a church, which turns out to be an outre nightclub, where Rammstein plays (what a bunch of poseurs), and he sticks out like a sore thumb. It's pretty funny, he runs on stage and gets shot, falls into the surging crowd, and is promptly bodypassed around. That's pretty much the level of wit in the movie, though it was fairly funny. The stunt work was OK, some of it was pretty good, some of it was just ludicrous and goofy (jumping over a wall, do some extreme acrobatics, and shooting a gun comes to mind); I actually liked the CGI avalanche, there were some nice digital touches, such as the camera shaking when the avalanche reached, or fleks of dirt hiting the lens. Vin Diesel gives an OK performance, he has a lot of charisma, but I don't think he has a lot of talent to spare; Asia Argento is pretty and vacant, I liked her wardrobe, with the emphasis on the fuck me boots, and Samuel L. Jackson chews the scenery, and doesn't manage to look ridiculous in his hair cut and scar make-up. Actually, this review may seem like I'm just making fun of the movie, which I am, but it was actually fairly good, well good enough to pass my time. Will I watch it again? Maybe, maybe not, but I would probably watch it on TNT if I was ever flipping through the channels late at night.