Action Movie Friday: xXx

It is time for Action Movie Friday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!

Title: xXx
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release: 2002
Genre: Action, Adventure, Spy
Starring: Vin Diesel, Asia Argento, Marton Csokas and Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Rob Cohen
Writer: Rich Wilkes
Distributor: Columbia Tristar
Budget: $70 Million
Box Office: $267 Million

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 48%

Gingersnaps Rating: Three Cookies!

In honor of the fact that Xander Cage is finally returning to the xXx in 2017 and there is a trailer to prove it. Let’s review the original!

Summary:

It’s time for a new type of secret agent. NSA is stumped by the underground criminal group Anarchy 99 and their solution is as unorthodox as it is effective, take a snake to catch a snake. Enter Xander Cage, thrill seeker and underground action sports fanatic with a penchant for stealing cars and driving them over bridges. Agent Gibbons of the NSA has Xander Cage over a barrel and Xander becomes the next secret agent. His mission: infiltrate Anarchy 99. Anarchy 99 seems like a normal criminal group but they have an agenda that’s much more sinister. It’s up to Xander Cage to stop it, despite the fact he’s not the poster boy for NSA recruitment.

Review:

The great thing about this movie is that it never takes itself too seriously. It’s a spoof of Bond and it’s proud of that fact. Think of it as an early Kingsman (nts: review Kingsman) (2nd nts: review new Bond films). The premise is the older than dirt adage of “take a thief to catch a thief” to the extreme. The story is clearly spelled out with the added visual cues to tell you what is coming next and to ‘show’ the viewer what Xander Cage is noticing as he goes about his mission.

The opening dialogue at Cage’s place always felt a little cheesy as if the writer walked into a street club and wrote down what they said to parrot it on the screen with just enough jargon to make it sound like the characters know what they’re talking about. It is pretty painful at first and it really doesn’t get better until the movie moves past trying to sound ‘hip’ and moves into the meat of the story.

The plot is fun. At the time, biochemical warfare was a huge threat to the world. The characters were fun and engaging, there was a bunch of dirt bikes and one very sweet classic GTO. So, this cookie remains uneaten.

Completely gratuitous explosion? One word: Columbia. One Cookie.

However, this movie was before Vin Diesel really started doing fight scenes. So, while the movie is entertaining, most of the action takes place with guns and helicopters versus motorcycles and automobile chase scenes. There is no real hand to hand combat. So, no cookie.

Now as much as I love this movie and find it entertaining because it’s Vin Diesel doing what Vin Diesel does best, the treatment of women in this movie makes me cringe. Women in this movie are objects to be used and tossed aside. Even Asia Argento’s character of Yelena needs the big strong Xander Cage to help her extract herself from Anarchy 99. Yelena, supposedly smart and with a lot of skills, should have been able to extract herself or have more power. The female roles in this movie are given the illusion of power, only to have it stripped away at a second deeper look, much like the penetrator mode on Xander Cage’s spy binoculars. The kindest thing I can say about the women written in this movie is that the men treat them with a vestige of respect and my skin doesn’t end up crawling. I wanted to leave a bit of this cookie, but I can’t. Rest in peace yummy eaten cookie.

The world building of this movie is remarkably consistent. Xander Cage says it himself, “Stop thinking law enforcement, and start thinking Playstation.” This is almost like a real world Grand Theft Auto, break the bounds of physics type of movie. They set the tone when Xander takes the corvette off the bridge and parachutes out of it and continue with it to the very last scenes that unsurprisingly contain a parachute. The GTO is an obvious knock off of some of James Bond’s older Aston Martin’s from Q as are some of the ‘gadgets’ that Shavers gives Xander. Though amusingly the names are mixed around where the NSA agents have full names and call Xander, X. Sure, we know you can’t really out snowboard an avalanche and that snaking a dirt bike between barb wire isn’t possible. We want to believe it and that is what this movie gives us. One cookie.

This movie is highly entertaining and fun never taking itself too seriously. However, the lack of a good beat down and the horrible treatment of women with Yelena being a missed opportunity to make an equal partner of the ignorant of agent ways Xander Cage, this movie ends up at three gingersnaps.

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  1. #1 by Karandi on July 22, 2016 - 8:23 pm

    Totally agree about the treatment of women in this film, but otherwise it is just a good bit of fun with some great action sequences. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  2. #2 by Josh Hammond on July 24, 2016 - 7:18 pm

    This is totally a guilty pleasure for me. I guess I never considered that it wasn’t taking itself seriously – and I doubt I would have liked it as much if I had thought that the filmmakers KNEW they were making something so cheesy – but I loved this nonetheless. Definitely a few cringeworthy lines of dialogue, both sexist and trying to hard to identify with “the kids.” (However, I still quote the line “You can chisel some off your heart . . . if you can find it” more than I should.)

    Like

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