The first xXx – a 2002 Vin Diesel film – was a fun Bond-style romp with flash cars, sexy women, bad Russian accents and a shitload of guns. Sporting a giant sheepskin jacket Diesel has a great charm and sense of playing up to the absurdity, which made it a highly enjoyable action thriller.
2005 swung round and the sequel blasted its way onto the big screen with a new xXx thundering around in cars blowing stuff up, played by Ice Cube. Plucked from prison by Samuel L Jackson, Cube is a more brutal xXx that needs to be ‘more off the grid’ – apparently Xander Cage from the first film was killed in Bora Bora doing something or other.
A National Security Agency bunker was broken into, which is what the new xXx has been hired to investigate, cuing a march into a chop shop where women in scanty clothing grind away on car parts, big cars are revved and rocket launchers are modded. It’s not a subtle film by any stretch of the imagination, perfectly shown by a sequence where xXx drives a boat off a river, up a crane arm, and lands on a police car which when blows up for no reason, or the way that every woman in it has her tits out.
The plot to the film is largely irrelevant – just there to allow xXx to beat loads of men up and blow more things to smithereens. There’s an odd racial bent to the film as well, with a range of digs against supposed white people’s views of black people. I’m not sure what the point of it is, apart from to further demonise the rich, white bad guys but it’s so heavy handed it’s just a bit weird, and also hypocritical as all the black people in this apart from Jackson are portrayed as ‘a bunch of hustlers and thieves’ as Cube says, who sit around in car workshops souping up stolen motors.
For a film with a couple of impressive actors in it, it really is poor. I enjoy Samuel L Jackson’s acting a lot, but there’s not much for him to do, and Willem Dafoe is just a generic evil Secretary of Defence who’s wasted in this. Cube’s not bad but nothing special either, he spends most of his time being smart arse or looking bored, and the agent who helps him, played by Michael Roof, is a cookie cutter clean-cut college boy with his knitted vest and neat haircut who again has no presence whatsoever.
I think the main problem is just a complete lack of humour, everybody is just so po-faced and there’s a lack of scale. The first film has some great epic set pieces, like Diesel driving off a bridge and then parachuting to safety, and driving a motorbike down an exploding building; yes they were silly but they were also a bit different, but there’s none of this in the sequel. What we do have a little bits that are sped up, which look odd, or a freeze-frame moment, which is naff, and a dollop of bad CGI, which is rubbish. Give this a wide berth and just re-watch the first one, you’ll thank me for it.