Imitation is the highest form of flattery. With “XXX,” director Rob Cohen set out to imitate everything great about a James Bond movie, and replace everything that is not-so great about one with – yes, extreme sports.

Paul Wong
Courtesy of Revolution Studios
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Vin Diesel and his shaved pate play Xander Cage, extreme sport aficionado, guru of death defying stunts and a subculture sex symbol (the flick has since turned Diesel into ‘hunk of the month’). Cage is somewhat of a rogue, hijacking the car of a California Senator in the film’s opening scene. The ruddy rebel then drives the auto off a bridge, parachuting to safety all while filming the whole fiasco for his website. From the beginning, “XXX” is hardly taking itself seriously. Xander Cage is action-packed death-defying stunts, reckless abandon, furious libido – an embryonic secret-agent man.

Who better to turn the fast fetus extreme sport-er into a trained government agent, designed to infiltrate the narcissistic and self-serving Anarchy99 than Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson). Gibbons plays puppet master to Xander’s marionette throughout all of “XXX,” manipulating Cage to follow orders without (gasp) ever knowing he’s taking orders.

Diesel plays Xander Cage with a wink and a nod, clearly having fun with the role and laughing his way to the bank. Anarchy99’s leader Yorgi is acted by Marton Csokas and with a schlocky popcorn flick like “XXX” viewers should simply be happy his accent was consistent.

Situations become complicated in the film when Xander Cage is outed as a secret agent, after infiltrating deep within Anarchy99. He employs the cool as ice Yelena, an Anarchy99 member herself (played by firecracker Asia Argento) to help usurp the terrorist group.

Writer Rich Wilkes (most notably 1994’s “Airheads”) perfectly steals, borrows, pillages, whatever, all of the major elements of a spy film. “XXX” is in no way shape or form a masterpiece. It is an entertaining summer popcorn flick and better than any of the Pierce Brosnan Bond flicks. While imitation is the highest form of flattery, it is more impressive when the imitator surpasses the source (when the most comparative similar is recent “007” joints). And “XXX” does just that.

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