[MOVIE REVIEW]Good, face-bonking fun sans artsy pretentions

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[MOVIE REVIEW]Good, face-bonking fun sans artsy pretentions

One of the truly great Web sites is the Evil Overlord list of 100 things to do if you ever become an evil overlord (www.eviloverlord.com/lists/overlord.html). It offers such sage advice as "My ventilation ducts will be too small to crawl through," " I will not gloat over my enemy's predicament before killing him" and "I will never employ any device with a digital countdown."

The villains in "XXX" violate at least 63 of these useful tidbits.

If this sort of silliness in movies makes your head hurt and makes you want to smash your box of popcorn into your face, then "XXX" probably isn't really your bag. If, however, you're the sort of person who goes, "Excuse me, Poindexter, but this is supposed to be a FUN film," then this just might be the perfect story for you.

The movie posits a world in which the United States' best-trained secret agents are utterly unable to cope with the new breed of superterrorist. So instead the government turns to Zander Cage (Vin Diesel), an extreme sports champion. That's right, the X-Games aren't just for the wee hours of ESPN2 anymore: now they're our only hope for the future. Don't you feel bad now for all the nasty things you've said about skateboarders?

Zander is a rebel, a crude, tattooed Gen-X-er who makes his own rules. But we know that he really has a heart of gold because, 1. He's loyal, 2. He is willing to risk his life to save overs, and 3. He doesn't smoke. Seriously. Zander is perfectly capable of gunning down bad guys by the hundreds without a moment's guilt, but thank goodness he doesn't puff on cigarettes.

The government realizes it needs the help of Zander Cage after Eastern European anarchists get their hands on some nasty chemical weapons. The U.S. security agent Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson doing some serious slumming) forcibly recruits Zander, offering him the choice of doing the assignment or going to prison for his criminal skateboarding and parachuting past.

The makers of "XXX" want to claim that this is a updated version of James Bond. And they're right -- but only if you're thinking of the cheesy Roger Moore version of the late-1970s and early-'80s.

Which isn't to say "XXX" is totally worthless. The stunts definitely impress, and some of the computer graphics are fun. Snowboarding through an avalanche strains credulity, but is extremely exciting.

But everything is so excessive that it doesn't so much dazzle as overload. Dated German industrial techno music engulfs the entire film. Explosions are a constant.

The budget is certainly large, but it wasn't spent on the script. The director Rob Cohen also made the 2001 film that first turned Vin Diesel into a star, "The Fast and the Furious."

Now, if you'll excuse me, my head hurts and I just smashed my box of popcorn into my face.

by Mark Russell

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