Directed by Rob Cohen. USA. 2002.

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I have a dream. Itís not all that far-fetched, and Iím peppy enough to believe it could come true. Vin Diesel COULD be hiding a layer of sensitivity under all that machismo. He COULD be getting tired of all the six foot tall, absurdly beautiful starlets who boast all the intellectual depth of mayonnaise. He COULD be looking for a short brunette who makes sarcastic comments for a living.

Itís also possible that I COULD be kidding myself. But you never can tell.

I have been following the worldís reigning action king since his fantastic turn in Pitch Black, and I have been attending every performance since in the hopes that the energy and charisma that blasted out in the role of Riddick would repeat itself.

I have so far, been disappointed.

Vin Dieselís latest theatre offering (XXX) is the story of extreme sports athlete (a.k.a. total nutbar) Xander Cage. After jumping out of a senatorís sports car post-driving it off a bridge, Xander is arrested and offered a choice. He can either go on a risky mission for his country, or go to jail for his many transgressions. 

XXX. All Rights Reserved.Vin Diesel (Pitch Black, Boiler Room, The Fast and The Furious) stars as Xander, a picture perfect example of a character that never quite develops into a realistic version of a person. XXX director Rob Cohen is clearly hoping that Xander will become esteemed as a younger, hipper version of James Bond, but has failed to inject any of the smarts or suaveness of Flemmingís spy into the fledgling operative. In fairness Diesel did have an uphill battle to make his character likeable. First off, Diesel had to leap over some SERIOUS plotholes. (i.e. government trained operatives are far too incompetent to complete a mission, so the American government elects to send ex-cons/extreme sports athletes on expeditions of vital importance to the country.) Secondly the script gives Diesel some terribly moronic morality dialogue to spew forth with. Despite those obstacles Dieselís charms and talent (which I still do believe he possesses) makes him watchable.

XXX. All Rights Reserved.Asia Argento makes her film debut here, showing an AMAZING amount of potential in the role of the girlfriend of the terrorist Xander is assigned to befriend. She makes her character very amiable. (Though I am still of two minds as to whether sheís really likeable, or I just liked her because she had a propensity towards causing the sexist twerps around her to explode.) Argento brings a real fire to the movie, and (thankfully) avoids the classic action movie trap of making the female roles brainless.

I am choosing to pretend that Samuel L. Jackson (The Cavemanís Valentine, Shaft) is not actually appearing in this film. That way I wonít have to demand the price of my theatre ticket back should I ever run into him on the street. He portrays the worldís LEAST realistic secret agent ever captured on film. His role was totally lacking in edge, strength, humour, and smarts. (Not to mention his participation in the least likely fight scene Iíve watched since Viggo Mortensen actually managed to cause damage to Vince Vaughan - who outweighs him by a good foot and 20 pounds - in Gus Van Santís update of Psycho.)

While I am usually very forgiving when it comes to summer movie flaws, there are certain things I canít bring myself to overlook in XXX:

1) The message of girls being incompetent in situations ranging from defusing a bomb to tying their own shoes.
2) The amazing disappearing-reappearing subtitles, causing all audience members not fluent in Russian to miss half the dialogue between the bad guys.
3) The excess of explosions to cover for the fact that there are plotholes in XXXís script the size of a standard musk ox.
4) The all too familiar waste of Vin Diesel.

Diesel seriously needs to work harder at script selection. Iíve been one of his biggest supporters since the release of Pitch Black, but if I have to sit through any more films like XXX, consisting of all flash, but no substance whatsoever, Iím going to remove him from my list of actors to watch, and move him over into the column of Hollywoodís big group of erratically talented performers. I am not willing to spend much more of my hard earned money to watch Diesel coast through yet another performance based solely on the fact that heís prettier then the average bear. XXX is OK mind fluff, which I will recommend as a filler until the new season of 24 starts. 

Keifer Sutherlandís prettier then Vin Diesel anyway.

Jen Johnston
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