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XXX

Vin Diesel is the next big action star. Not because of anything he did or starred in, but because in this age of aging stars, Hollywood needs somebody new, and the studios have anointed him as their choice. After a quick rise to stardom in Hollywood (The Fast and the Furious, Boiler Room), Diesel, with his multiethnic look, buff body, and gravel-edged voice now sits atop the chain of young stars. People are so hopeful about his prospects that they started preproduction on a sequel to XXX before the release date of this film. It shows, since XXX feels less like a movie and more like the foundation for later sequels. The end product does show that Diesel has what it takes to be an action star, but this was never much in the first place.

XXX is nothing more than an update on the James Bond formula. Everything is here, from the gadget guy, to the gorgeous foreign actress, doomsday scenarios, and grandiose stunts. The main difference is that the good guy, Xander Cage, or XXX (Diesel), is not necessarily good. He is a rogue extreme sportsman who is somewhat of an urban guerilla, breaking the law the get his message across. NSA Agent Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson, Star Wars: Episode II, Changing Lanes) wants him to work for the government. Gibbons is after a group of Russian expatriates calling themselves Anarchy 99 who may or may not be dabbling in bioterrorism. Every trained agent he sent failed, and Gibbons believes that he needs somebody just as nasty as the people he is trying to capture. He throws XXX an ultimatum; help the United States or go to jail. XXX agrees to help.

The bulk of the movie is in the stunts. Rich Wilkes' (Beer Money, Glory Daze) script is barely that. It is an excuse to bring together lots of different stunts (they do look fantastic) within the shell of a movie. Snowboarding, skydiving, motorcycles, and fast cars are only some of what is in this movie. A good chunk of the first part of XXX is Gibbons testing XXX to see if he is the right person for the job. Once XXX passes, he is off to Europe to meet Yorgi (Martin Csokas, Rain, The Fellowship of the Ring) and his beautiful girlfriend Yelena (Asia Argento, Scarlet Diva, B. Monkey). XXX and Yelena dislike each other so much initially that it only means they will fall for each other later.

XXX quickly succeeds far beyond Gibbons' expectations, and finds himself in more danger than he expected. Everything else goes along the predetermined course. It doesn't require any brains to watch this movie. What director Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious, The Skulls) gets right is the attitude. XXX is overflowing with a rebellious punk-like demeanor, and lots of swagger for Diesel. He pulls it off easily, mostly because of his size. The Cage role requires little else. In fact, one must enjoy XXX purely on a superficial level. It is exciting and looks great, but there is nothing of substance in here whatsoever.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
2 hours, 4 minutes, Rated PG-13 for violence, non-stop action sequences, sensuality, drug content and language.

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