Being an international spy used to be a pretty elite gig, at least as far as the movies went.

By Gus Bode

You had to be English.

You had to bed down at least three women per picture, preferably ones with Russian accents who worked for – and also bedded down with – your victim-of-a-freakish-accident-who-also-has-a-Russian-or-possibly-English-accent adversary.

Not so, it seems.


As with all things Hollywood, it takes more oomph to be a secret agent these days. As we see in the new film “XXX,” you need a dark and rebellious past to get along now. Since the Russians now only start problems on a bi-yearly basis, usually with a nuclear weapon they’re not supposed to have, foes are limited to fringe groups that want to destroy the world because, essentially, that’s the cool and post-modern thing to do.

Oh yeah. It helps to be multi-cultural, too, or at least have an ethnically mismatched partner. If you are black woman, an Asian man or a black Asian man with a little Mexican on your mother’s side, you’re in the spy game.

Enter Vin Diesel, who is the shotgun multi-ethnic lovechild of an Italian woman, an American woman, three black men and a Hollywood marketing analyst. Vin is cool because everything he does has oomph; as secret agent Xavier Cage, codenamed XXX, he has enough tattoos to work as camouflage in an art museum, and everything he does has a grinding rock music soundtrack to it. For the ladies, he’s become a newer, more mysterious kind of sex symbol since he screamed into theaters last year with “The Fast And The Furious.” For the guys, he’s entertaining but a bit of a joke; the only kind of guys who come that stacked are made by Hasbro, and we’re not entirely sure he can act without a souped-up muscle car and an automatic weapon.

Regardless, he makes “XXX” just as goofily entertaining as “The Fast And The Furious,” mostly on the virtues of his swollen multi-ethnic muscles and his disdain for anything resembling authority. Don’t get me wrong here; this is not a good movie. However, it’s not necessarily a bad movie. A lot of this can be attributed to director Rob Cohen (also of “The Fast And The Furious”), who seems to have a preternatural talent for taking trash like this and turning it into something numbingly entertaining. In the end, “XXX” is a really cool beer commercial that goes on for two hours, and Vin is the ultimate Bud guy. He races on motorcycles. He steals politicians’ cars. He has a vast working knowledge of large-scale weaponry, and he has (just) enough wit to make a (somewhat) clever comment after killing a cigarette-smoking enemy with a heat-seeking missle. Mr. Bond, you have nothing on this agent!

The plot (and we’ll call it that here, for the sake of convenience) revolves around Vin, a badass thrill-seeker who gets caught by the law and recruited by the National Security Agency for a top-secret mission because, as we’re told by his boss, Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson, who is obviously here to lend some abstract element of class), he is a badass thrill-seeker who is needed by his country. Thus, Vin is sent to Prague to infiltrate an anarchist group lead by a man named Yorgi (Martin Csokas) that plans to – get this – destroy the world OUT OF PURE NIHILISTIC PLEASURE! These guys do nothing but sit around, get drunk and discuss how pointless everything is, so Vin spends most of his time drinking with them, hitting on Yorgi’s girlfriend (Asia Argento) and, in general, doing his multi-ethnic Vin Diesel schtick. This includes flexing his telephone pole-sized biceps, showing the camera the XXX tattoo on the back of his neck (which, incidentally, seems to get larger with each of the 349 looks we get at it), blowing things up and racing a 40,000-ton avalanche down a mountain on his snowboard. None of this seems to faze him. His typical response is, “Dope!”

And that’s why, for better or worse, Hollywood needs Vin Diesel right now. Schwarzenegger and Stallone both need two pills and a nap before they’re capable of saving the world anymore, and ol’ 007, for better or worse, hasn’t done anything really cool for half a decade. Vin, however, can wow us with his multi-ethnic, untalented Vin-ness by simply playing Scrabble, and perhaps there are things he can teach us about the other dying genres.

What about a romantic comedy? He could impress Meg Ryan by sweeping her off her feet with his multi-ethnic tattooed arms, exposing her creepy fianc for a terrorist and running him over with a tank.


A period piece? Vin Diesel does “Pride And Prejudice” – with an AK-47 and a quest for vengeance.

Maybe even a Disney movie.

But this is just the view from the backseat. Take it as you will.