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Review byMatthew Turner15/10/2002

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 123 mins

Admirable attempt to out-Bond Bond that almost works – the stunts are great and Vin’s a bona fide star but it’s overlong and let down by a sub-standard screenplay.

With the advance word on the new Bond film (Die Another Day) seemingly less than promising, it’s easy to see the appeal of Triple X’s “new breed of Secret Agent”. Particularly when that secret agent is played by hulking, gravelly-voiced future superstar Vin Diesel (Pitch Black, The Fast and the Furious), who, after this, has suddenly leaped into the 20 million dollars-a-movie bracket, so expect Triple X 2 this time next year…

It’s a shame, then, that as much thought couldn’t have gone into the screenplay as obviously went into the stunt-work, because, for the most part, Triple X epitomises Big Dumb Fun and more than delivers on the action set pieces. It’s only the script that really lets it down.

Bizarre Beating Ritual

Vin Diesel stars as Xander Cage, an extreme sports nut, who we first meet ‘surfing’ a senator’s car off a bridge, before parachuting to safety, all in the name of his cable television show.

When he’s subsequently captured, he undergoes a bizarre ritual which seems to involve nothing more than beating up some suspicious characters in a bar (a ridiculous scene that sets the tone for the nonsense to come), before being forced by Agent Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson, thinking of the paycheque) to accept a position as a ‘new kind of secret agent’ and undertake a highly dangerous mission in Europe. If he refuses, he goes to jail.

So off to Prague he goes, to infiltrate a gang of death-metal-loving Euro-anarchists who are planning to destroy the world.

To be fair, the target audience for this film will largely be concerned with the action sequences, and on this score, director Rob Cohen (who also made The Fast and the Furious) delivers in spades. The jaw-dropping list of stunts includes the opening sequence, a sequence with a motorbike, a sequence involving skateboarding on a tea tray, and the exciting river-bound finale.

Spectacular Yet Ludicrous

There’s also a truly spectacular, yet ludicrous sequence in which Vin has to take out the roof-top aerial of a building, so, rather than, say, shoot it, he sets off an avalanche and then snow-boards in front of it all the way down the mountain, which apparently gives him the required momentum to leap onto the aerial and twist it a little, as the avalanche comes to a halt inches below his chest. And then he gets captured anyway…

One impressive aspect to the stunts is that Vin’s face has been digitally matted onto the stuntman, so that his face appears visible throughout the stunts. (What? You thought that was really he horizontally jumping the motorbike through that barbed wire? Get outta here!)

Script-wise, the film is less impressive. You’re desperate for Vin to bust out the cool one-liners at every stage of the movie, but the best he can manage is “I told you smoking would kill you!” (yes, kids, there’s a MESSAGE here), or, worse, “If you’re going to send someone to save the world, make sure they like it the way it is”.

Pole-Dancing Prostitute

It’s also the kind of film that isn’t afraid to throw in a pole-dancing prostitute (as a ‘gift’ from the anarchists) just to up the T & A quota – cue Vin’s only other memorable –but still rubbish- line “Oh, the things I’m going to do for my country…”

Having said that, Vin has charisma to burn and he makes the best of what he’s given, even if he appears less than comfortable in his love scenes with intriguingly odd-looking Asia Argento (daughter of horror maestro Dario). Vin’s appeal is unusual, because, apart from the cool voice and physical bulk, he also appears oddly vulnerable and puppy-dog-like. Schwarzenegger he ain’t. (And that’s a good thing).

In short, this is Big Dumb Fun on a massive scale. It may be stupid, but it knows it’s stupid, although it definitely drags in the middle and could have done with being twenty minutes shorter. Still, as a Saturday Night brainless action flick, you could do worse and Vin ensures it’s always watchable.

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Content updated: 02/08/2014 12:22
 

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