Around the same era that Vin Diesel started making his mark as a tough guy Street Racer in The Fast and the Furious, he starred in a similar movie called xXx, or Triple X. It’s similar in that Vin Diesel plays the same sort of underground tough guy bad ass character and both films are sort of designed for the X-treme audience. xXx take this whole concept to the X-treme level though.
Aside from general tone and Vin Diesel’s character, xXx and Fast and the Furious don’t share a whole lot else in common. At it’s core, xXx is essentially a Bond film. In fact there is really very little that would need to be changed, including dialogue, to make this a bond film, aside from swapping Vin Diesel’s Xander Cage for Pierce Brosnan in a suit. I suppose the early 30 minutes or so where Xander Cage gets recruited would need to be reworked a bit, simply because James Bond is already a secret agent, but you get the idea.
The core plot boils down to, the government is too out of touch to infiltrate a terror organization, Anarchy 99, of young Ukrainian punks, so they need to recruit their own younger hip tough guy to go and extract some intel. Of course, this leads to Vin Diesel’s character getting too involved and he ends up saving the day.
This is definitely a film full of some pretty cringy bits, though mostly because it’s very much a film of the early 2000s. Heck, Xander Cage’s nickname is “Triple X”, because of his three strikes criminal record, but also because it looks XTREME. This is all demonstrated early on in the film as Xander steals a sports car and runs it off a bridge while video taping a statement about how the owner, an unpopular politician is a dick. This basic concept seems kind of whatever these days but something to consider, this movie came out 3 years before Youtube was a thing. This is pre internet video activism.
Xander Cage is then recruited by Samuel L. Jackson, as “government handler guy” though not before running him through several tests. There are bits in the Colombia scenes that feel really out of place in the flow, since it’s really obviously just an excuse to throw some stunt bike work in, but otherwise it’s all pretty alright. It seems a little ridiculous that the government would throw some random punks into the middle of a warzone with no training though. Not to mention the incompetence in how the diner was staged.
Xander heads off to his mission, still without any training, though he does get some gadgets from this movie’s Q to help him out in a pinch. One thing I will give this movie props for is that he uses most of the gadgets he is given, and none of them feel ridiculously situational, as seems to happen a lot in James Bond.
Eventually the necessary data is gathered but not before Xander falls for Yelena, the girlfriend of our villain. Where would out X-treme James Bond be without an X-treme Bond Girl after all. This becomes Xander’s driving force for the second half of the film, as the government wants to extract him, but he believe Yelena is good and wants to save her first.
During the extraction attempt we learn of the true plans of Anarchy 99, to launch an unmanned mini sub filled with deadly bio toxin filled missiles. The ideas is to wipe out the world governments and cause Anarchy. It’s once again, very James Bond in nature.
Eventually we learn, to not a lot of surprise, that Yelena is also an undercover agent, and Xander teams up with the Ukraine police to raid the compound of Anarchy 99. Not before we get another really out of place X-treme sports sequence though, as Xander uses his mad Snowboarding skills to cause an avalanche and cut off communications to the compound. It’s kind of funny considering part of the theme of this movie is the whole X-treme sports X-games motif, but anytime that element shows up, it doesn’t fit the movie plot very well and feels tacked on.
During the raid and final sequences, we get some good bits that help sell Xander’s character, which I really enjoyed. He hasn’t had to do a lot of actual spy/soldier work yet, though he kind of boasts about how he’s this great whatever and plays plenty of video games. Yet, he almost gets killed by not knowing how to work his machine gun (saved by Yolena, the real spy), and later only manages to kill Yorgi, the leader of Anarchy 99 when he takes time to actually aim his gun instead of shooting wildly. He also has no idea how to use his recently acquired weaponized super car, though as pointed out in the film, nothing it’s equipped with is actually very useful to their situation.
During the final sequence, Xander and Yelena chase down the submarine in that super car, though Xander still gets to do some clever X-treme sports tricks to finish off the submarine.
Despite the grungy loudness of the film, it flows pretty well and is pretty believable in what it’s attempting to accomplish. The dialogue has some cheesy bits, and everyone’s Russian accents get a little old after a while, but xXx is a decent action flick. If you’re a fan of Brosnan era Bond or The Fast and the Furious, this movie is a decent blend of those concepts that makes it work. It’s not high film, but it’s not god awful schlock either.