Hard Bodies and Tough ’Tudes
By DeShaun Snead

If you saw the Apollo’s marquee this week you might have been fooled about what was actually playing. No, XXX is not the name of a cheap flick you wouldn’t want to see with your mother; it is the name of the high impact action film starring newcomer Vin Diesel and Samuel L. Jackson.
Diesel is Xander ‘XXX’ Cage, an Internet daredevil who exposes politicians in their attempts to stifle free speech, video games and hard rock. CIA agent Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) selects Xander for a special mission and effectively throws him the choice of cooperation or imprisonment. Xander, who loves his freedom too much to go to jail, sets out to infiltrate a dangerous Czechoslovakian gang called Anarchy 99, which may be manufacturing biological weapons. It is Xander’s job to stop them — alone.
Diesel jumps out of planes, snowboards down crumbling snowy mountains, soars across fiery skies on a motorcycle and does it all with a distinctly American attitude. XXX is not your typical action flick with a throwaway plot. There isn’t one minute of this movie that allows for distraction. Diesel is always doing something on screen that recalls Batman comic books or James Bond movies. His hard body is smeared with tattoos and often covered in a stylish fur coat. He definitely looks like someone who could save democracy.
Director Robert Cohen has an eye for suspenseful shots. The striking angles and the digital effects, always key in any action movie, are incredibly believable throughout the film. They don’t have the over-polished look of most blue screen or computerized shots (remember Spiderman earlier this year?).
If you liked The Fast and the Furious you will be sure to love XXX. They share many elements. Diesel, like the good guy in The Fast and the Furious, begins as a green outsider who is eventually accepted into the group (in this case a Czech gang) because of his skill and charm. XXX also features cars that are out of this world. Diesel speeds to the rescue in a GTO that is more equipped than the Batmobile.
Meanwhile, Samuel L. Jackson’s lyrical lines sing with the perfect tone of authority. The viewer is immediately reminded of Pulp Fiction because of Jackson’s voice and dynamic acting ability. He is a shrouded authority that soon becomes a father figure for Xander.
XXX has some of the typical dry dialogue characteristic of action films, but it brings out issues like American patriotism and biological warfare, both of which are very current. Needless to say, though elements of this film may make political eyes roll, it does provide insight into what sentiments the American media is promoting when it comes to heroes, patriotism and acceptable forms of masculinity. Throughout the movie, U.S. democracy always reigns supreme and everybody everywhere wants to be American. XXX offers an opportunity for deconstructing some of the myths of patriotism and machismo, while bringing the fun of viewing Vin Diesel in action to the fullest degree.

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