‘XXX’treme Boredom

Make no mistake, “XXX” is a summer movie, complete with high-flying stunts, more explosions than dialogue and a heart-pumping soundtrack. It’s hard not to find at least one or two things appealing about the blockbuster. But guess what, that’s it – one or two things. Director Rob Cohen dedicates so much screen time trying to wow the audience that he’s left with a film riddled with even more plot holes than bullet holes.

Not even charismatic actor Vin Diesel can save this film from being just another action-adventure excursion into overkill. What was supposed to be Diesel’s first blockbuster vehicle has instead become something so sloppy and predictable that he winds up as one of the film’s many victims.

It’s a shame, because you get a sense that “XXX” wanted to be something more. It wanted to be pure popcorn fun, an exercise in balancing the outrageous action with smart and entertaining sequences. Recent films able to pull this off include Blade 2, which did a masterful job of throwing just the right kind of action in your face. “XXX” merely kicks it in your eyes, preventing you from enjoying what was supposed to be a good

The paper-thin plot involves a celebrity extreme sports gamer named Xander Cage (Diesel) who builds a nasty habit of breaking the law all in the name of his Internet-based extreme sports show. After one particular fracas, Cage is intercepted by the NSA and a mysterious agent named Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson, who really must be the hardest working man in film today). Gibbons recruits Cage with the idea that if Cage can help the NSA infiltrate a gang of rogue Soviet soldiers, the government will wipe his criminal record clean.

Nevermind the unlikelihood of the U.S. government investing millions of dollars and a lot of time on a slight risk that a known felon will help them with a pivotal investigation where the future of mankind is at stake. Audiences are willing to forgive such illogical leaps if the goods are delivered. But alas, most of the goods didn’t make it down the tube.

Diesel charms his way through scene after scene, but by the half-way point of the film you begin to feel he’s fatigued by trying to carry the whole picture. It’s not his fault; Cohen doesn’t really direct this movie as much as just let the elements run wild. In fact, “XXX” feels more undirected than most Hollywood movies this year.

In between the occasionally entertaining sequences – including a terrific avalanche chase – is a trite romantic subplot between Cage and a mysterious Soviet woman (Asia Argento). In fact, any trace of a story or character development in “XXX” are quickly wiped away in favor of action sequences that begin to feel repetitive. Play a game with the whole family when you’re watching the movie: Count the number of times a group of characters in the film are standing in a room on the brink of conflict when, suddenly, U.S. agents storm through the windows with explosives.

Rest assured, “XXX” will likely become a franchise hit with its combination of sexy women, big guns and really, really cool cars. The main problem is the film is so weighed down by such superficial nonsense, any remaining echoes of a “fun” movie aren’t anywhere to be found. Is it James Bond for the 21st century? No, James Bond is James Bond for the 21st century. Wait for this autumn’s next Bond film and let “XXX” be “XXX” for its fleeting 15 minutes of fame.