XXX (2002 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Rob Cohen|
|Produced by||Neal H. Moritz|
|Written by||Rich Wilkes|
|Music by||Randy Edelman|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$277.4 million|
xXx (pronounced as Triple X) is a 2002 American spy action adventure film directed by Rob Cohen, produced by Neal H. Moritz and written by Rich Wilkes. The first installment in the xXx franchise, the film stars Vin Diesel as Xander Cage, a thrill-seeking extreme sports enthusiast, stuntman and rebellious athlete-turned reluctant spy for the National Security Agency who is sent on a dangerous mission to infiltrate a group of potential Russian terrorists in Central Europe. The film also stars Asia Argento, Marton Csokas and Samuel L. Jackson. Cohen had previously directed The Fast and the Furious (2001), in which Diesel also starred.
The film received mixed reviews from critics, but was a financial success, grossing $277.4 million worldwide. It was followed by two sequels, State of the Union (2005) and Return of Xander Cage (2017).
The Russian terrorist group Anarchy 99 has a biochemical weapon named "Silent Night", missing since the fall of the Soviet Union, and any attempts the NSA has made to get information on the group and the weapon have failed. Its latest mission to collect information goes awry when its agent's identity is discovered, and the agent assassinated. NSA Agent Augustus Gibbons points out the reason for the failed attempts: Anarchy 99 are mercenaries who have formal training as Russian soldiers and can recognize any agent with ties to the United States government, or formal training in the military. Gibbons believes the only way to get close to Anarchy 99 without their suspecting something wrong is to recruit an agent who can blend in and gather information without their knowledge. He selects Xander Cage, also known as X, an extreme sports professional and host of his own television show, who was recently captured by the FBI for stealing and destroying a prominent California senator's car as an act of protest. Gibbons puts Cage through two tests – stopping a staged diner robbery and escaping from a drug cartel's plantation in Colombia during an army raid. Each test allows Cage to demonstrate both his physical and his psychological skills, as he defeats his foes and rapidly assesses the situation before him. Satisfied with how Cage performs, Gibbons offers him the mission, and convinces Cage to accept it by using a carrot/stick technique, with a clean slate as the carrot and a prison sentence as the stick.
Xander goes to Prague and meets with the NSA support team including Czech agent Milan Sova, who explains that Cage is only in Prague because Gibbons had put pressure on Sova and if he does anything wrong, he will be deported back to America. Cage flips this show of authority by saying that he doesn't want to be there and pointing out that he's never been under anyone's jurisdiction. He tells Sova off that if he wants to take his anger out on someone, take it on the person who cheaply sold him the suit he wears. While scouting an Anarchy 99 party, Xander purposely reveals Sova's cover after catching the latter flashing his badge in front of the bar patrons, which allows him to gain the confidence of Anarchy 99's leader, Yorgi. Through Yorgi's brother Kolya, who is a fan of Cage's show, Xander gains critical information on the military background of Anarchy 99's members. Xander is attending a car deal with Yorgi at his invitation when Sova shows up and starts a firefight. Xander shoots Sova with a fake blood-splatter round to make it look like he is dead, which causes Yorgi to fully accept Xander as a member of Anarchy 99. Xander returns with Yorgi to their headquarters, a castle outside of the city, where he meets Yorgi's girlfriend Yelena. Xander finds Yelena trying to break into Yorgi's safe and, taking her to a nearby restaurant, tells her he is an American agent. Yelena gets a call from Kirill, a sniper working for Yorgi, who reveals they know of Xander's true identity before he starts firing on them. Yelena and Cage work together to help each other escape by staging a fight between them, which results in Cage knocking Yelena out with a serving tray. Cage is then kidnapped by the NSA team and taken to Gibbons, who tells Xander to return home since his cover is blown, but Xander refuses as he fears for Yelena's safety from both Yorgi and a planned attack on the castle by special forces. Xander learns that Sova purposely blew his cover.
Xander sneaks back to the castle and overhears Yorgi's plans to equip a waterborn drone named Ahab with "Silent Night" to release the biochemical in the middle of every major city, starting with Prague. Yorgi tests the weapon on his scientists, killing them. Xander rescues Yelena from Yorgi and kills Kolya. At a safehouse, Yelena explains she is an FSB agent, working undercover to get close to Yorgi two years ago, but six months after the start of the operation, her contacts abandoned her. Xander organises the rest of the NSA team in Prague for an assault on Yorgi's castle. Xander himself jumps out of a plane and snowboards to a nearby monitoring station which Anarchy 99 uses to secure the castle and destroys it by starting an avalanche, but is captured by Yorgi's forces.
Xander is taken back to Yorgi, who reveals he has captured Yelena again and has known about her true identity all along. As the special forces attack starts, Xander and Yelena use the opportunity to escape, killing Kirill and Yorgi, who already launched Ahab towards the center of Prague. Xander alerts Gibbons, who has the Czech military prepare to destroy the Ahab via airstrikes with the unfortunate side effect of releasing some of the biochemical agent. Xander harpoons Ahab from the car, grabs the hard drive containing the priming and targeting information and flips one of the primed bio-warheads, causing the drone to sink underwater. Xander is rescued from the freezing river and Gibbons promises Yelena American citizenship. Xander and Yelena are relaxing in Bora Bora when Gibbons calls, telling him there is another mission. Xander ignores him and goes with Yelena.
- Vin Diesel as Xander Cage / xXx
- Asia Argento as Yelena
- Samuel L. Jackson as NSA Agent Augustus Eugene Gibbons
- Marton Csokas as Yorgi
- Michael Roof as NSA Agent Toby Lee Shavers
- Richy Müller as Milan Sova
- Werner Daehn as Kirill
- Petr Jákl as Kolya
- Jan Pavel Filipensky as Viktor
- Tom Everett as California state senator Dick Hotchkiss
- Danny Trejo as El Jefe
- Thomas Ian Griffith as NSA Agent Jim McGrath
- Eve as J.J.
- Leila Arcieri as Jordan King
- William Hope as NSA Agent Roger Donnan
- Radek Tomecka as Ivan Pedgrag
- Martin Hub as Ivan Podrov
- Joe Bucaro III as Virg
- Chris Gann as T.J.
To support Xander Cage's credibility within extreme sport subcultures, various personalities make cameo appearances, including Tony Hawk, Mike Vallely, Carey Hart, Mat Hoffman and Josh Todd. Rammstein appear as themselves.
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In August 2001, Sony put a large billboard of XXX in Hollywood, before a script had been written. There was also a teaser trailer released on May 3, 2002. It was then attached to Spider-Man, and shown on the web.
Filming took place at three locations. Most of the film is set in Prague, Czech Republic. The Corvette jump was filmed at the Foresthill Bridge in Auburn State Recreation Area, Auburn, California. The final scenes were set in Bora Bora, Tahiti, and other areas in Southern West Virginia.
Stunt player Harry O'Connor, Diesel's stunt double, was killed when he hit a pillar of the Palacky Bridge in Prague, para-sailing during one of the action scenes. The accident occurred while filming the second take of the stunt; O'Connor's first attempt was completed without incident and can be seen in the completed film.
The first few minutes of the film take place at a Rammstein concert in Prague. The same clip is available, but from the band's perspective (with only brief scenes from the film) in their video compilation Lichtspielhaus.
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The film score was composed by Randy Edelman, a frequent collaborator of Cohen's. The film also featured a contemporary rock music soundtrack. Rammstein provided some of the music and was even featured in the film in the opening scene. During the club scene in Prague, Orbital can be seen playing their exclusive track "Technologicque Park" live before the dancing crowd. The soundtrack album also features Queens of the Stone Age, Drowning Pool, Hatebreed, Nelly, Lil Wayne, N.E.R.D, and Moby. It was released on August 6, 2002 through Universal Records. It peaked at #9 on the Billboard 200, #16 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and #1 on the Top Soundtracks. The "Tweaker remix" of the song "Adrenaline" by Gavin Rossdale (the lead singer of Bush) was featured was in the film, while the original version is included on the soundtrack.
Rotten Tomatoes reported that 48% of the critics gave the film positive reviews based on a sample of 178 reviews, with an average score of 5.6/10. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times enjoyed the film, giving it 3 and a half stars out of 4. It was a financial success with total gross $277,448,382.
Director's cut version
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The director's cut DVD of the film was released on April 19, 2005, ten days before the sequel, State of the Union was released in cinemas. The director's cut featured new artwork, and deleted scenes previously unseen. Some of these include additional scenes that foreshadowed Xander as a hero, and also a longer stripper-in-the-bedroom sequence. There were also sneak peeks at the sequel. Interestingly for Director's cuts, these scenes were cut by the director himself, for length and pacing. It also contains an extra titled, The Final Chapter: The Death of Xander Cage, a four-minute short film that attempts to tie up some loose ends about the Xander Cage character by showing his gory demise.
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The film was followed by a sequel in 2005, entitled xXx: State of the Union, starring the rapper Ice Cube and directed by Lee Tamahori. Neither Diesel, Cohen, nor XXX creator Rich Wilkes were involved in the sequel, and there were notable differences in both style (less emphasis on extreme sports) and music (rock music was replaced with hip hop and rap). XXX: State of the Union was poorly received by critics. It currently has a rating of 16% on Rotten Tomatoes. The sequel was also a financial failure, making less than expected when compared to the original film. In January 2014, Vin Diesel confirmed work on a sequel tentatively titled xXx: Return of Xander Cage. On August 23, 2015, Vin Diesel announced on his Instagram page that "While I was filming XXX, guys on set called me Air Diesel... The time to return has come. Filming starts December in the Philippines. #ILiveForThisShit...". On October 10, 2015, it was reported that director D. J. Caruso will direct the third film. Diesel announced on his Instagram account that UFC fighter Conor McGregor was cast in a role and Samuel L. Jackson will be reprising his role as Gibbons. In January 2016, Twitch reports that Tony Jaa, Jet Li and Deepika Padukone are cast in roles, Nina Dobrev and Ruby Rose were cast in roles with Dobrev as a witty and sarcastic techie, Padukone as a huntress who happens to be Cage’s former lover and Rose will play a sniper and Li was confirmed in the film as the leader of his own team and will square off against Cage, it's whether he is the ultimate villain of the pic remains to be seen. Andrey Ivchenko was confirmed to be another villain in the film as one of the big bads Diesel is set to lock horns with, given that earlier reports revealed Li also joined the threequel as a potential adversary. On February 12, 2016, reports brought in the news that Jet Li dropped out of the film and was replaced with Donnie Yen in the role of the main antagonist.
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- XXX Franchise Earnings on The Numbers
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