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Dumber Than a Sack of Hammers:
A Review of "XXX"

by Deborah Solomon
9/8/02

"XXX" is hilarious and fascinating, in a "big-muscles, non-stop-explosions, dumber-than- a-sack-of-hammers, the-whole-world- can-be-saved-with-a- snowboard-and-a- souped-up-Pontiac" kind of way.

One source of extreme hilarity is the costume design, which is, I'm not kidding, the most god-awful I have ever seen in all my years of movie-going. There seems to have been a directive on the set to slap a giant fur collar on anything that moved, be it animal, vegetable or mineral. Anything of the female persuasion was then also treated to a series of endless experiments in patchwork (!), semi-detached collars, belts that held up nothing, and spike-heeled hip-boots (at one point with ruffled tops extending out like upside-down bells).

This would have been brilliant if it had been used to help us distinguish the good guys from the bad guys — as in cool capitalist hero clad in up-to-the-moment duds vs. bad Eastern European post-communist anarchists, painfully trapped in an early 80s fashion milieu. But alas, clothing as metaphor for good versus evil was not to be. Instead, our lovely growling star spends the first twenty minutes of the movie himself wearing a pair of blindingly bright multi-colored pants that I swear I've seen for sale hanging on a chain link fence next to an L.A. freeway off-ramp, and which I found myself repeatedly praying would catch on fire in one of the endless explosions that kept flaring up all around him.

In any event, my theory is that "XXX" is a secretly government-funded attempt to convince American youth of today (especially those at exactly draftable age) that patriotism is cool. The Gen-X credentials of Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) are as obvious as his nasty pants: he has tattoos and a ridiculous name, hates authority, lives in a warehouse, can quote Vandals songs, is an underground extreme sports athlete (if you can be convinced that driving cars off bridges somehow qualifies you as in any way "athletic"), is being courted to have his likeness appear in a video game, and has gained international fame on that favorite devil's playground for disaffected youth, the Internet.

Ultimately, though, he is willing to give up all his anti-authority street cred (at least within the Eastern European bad guy hipster community) in order to serve as a secret agent for Uncle Sam. And why? Because he realizes (a) that Samuel L. Jackson is gonna throw his ass in jail if he doesn't get over his bad self and (b) that some enemies are so amoral and un-American that it's worth passing up the chance to chill in old-time Czech castles and party with friends who summon their women by yelling "Bitches, come!" just to fight for freedom, democracy, and the American way.

By the time Xander Cage comes soaring out of the sky strapped into a stars-and-stripes parachute and risks life and limb to dismantle a speeding aquatic genetic weapon, I was expecting an army recruiter to be walking the aisles, looking for converts. I guess that explains the fashion design: they were trying to make fatigues look good by comparison. The thing is, the aversion therapy was surprisingly effective. I, for one, don't need to see another spike-heeled hip-boot for a long, long, long time.

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SET DIRECTIVES FOR "XXX":

1. Slap a giant fur collar on anything that moves ...
... be it animal, vegetable or mineral!

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