Vin Diesel stars in this action drama
directed by Rob Cohen. Xander Cage (Diesel) is an extreme sports fanatic who gets forcibly conscripted into the US secret service when his latest stunt lands him in trouble with the law. Sent to Prague with instructions to infiltrate an ex-Red Army terrorist group, Xander soon discovers plans to develop a deadly biological weapon intended for use against various cities across the globe. But Yelena (Asia Argento), the girlfriend of terrorist leader Yorgi (Marton Csokas), already has her suspicions about the US agent, and the growing tension between the two of them means that Xander's cover might be blown at any moment.
For a movie that would like to think of itself as the future of the action / espionage picture, xXx uses a surprising number of jokes and stunts lifted directly from the Roger Moore Bond era while the actual premise resembles a sex-change for Nikita. Vin Diesel's Xander Cage--an extreme sports daredevil recruited by spymaster Samuel L Jackson for a covert mission in Prague--may be Blofeld-bald, pumped-up with testosterone, tattooed like a graffiti-covered wall and given to driving sports cars off bridges for fun, but he turns out to be a disappointingly square goodie-goodie when the quips and bullets are flying. Even the slinky heroine (Asia Argento), a double agent within a mad ex-Soviet gang called Anarchy 99, laughs at the idea that a walking cue ball with three Xs tattooed on his neck could ever be a secret agent.
There's one stunt scene that will be remembered as a classic, as xXx triggers an avalanche and snowboards ahead of the fall. But there's too much of the falling-out-of-planes, straddling-and-defusing-jet-propelled-germ-bombs, blasting-every-baddie-in-the-place business that makes it too familiar. Enough material for several great trailers, but next time they'll need a script. --Kim Newman
On the DVD: xXx comes loud and proud to DVD, with Dolby 5.1 sound and the kind of sharp screen transfer you'd expect for a movie of this magnitude. From beautiful scrolling menus based on the tattoo artwork to the brash music, this disc epitomises everything an extreme sports release should be: special features are offered in the "Zander Zone" and include a whole host of behind-the-scenes action and commentaries, made all the more interesting by Rob Cohen's reluctance to use CGI and Vin Diesel's willingness to be thrown in at the deep end. If there's one thing you should avoid, though, it's the Gavin Rossdale music video--unless of course you want to see a grown man's vanity on screen
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