Vin de Vie

Let's see - my first memory of Vin Diesel would be from Boiler Room - playing a guy with a quite a load of confidence and bearing, and a voice blessed with a strong delivery. I didn't much like the character - not for lack of characterization, but for lack of empathy - and didn't feel much need to follow Diesel to the Fast and the Furious, a movie which seems like one the same character would be at home in. The mind does tend to make the connection that the actor resembles his roles. I know this isn't necessarily true, but it creeps in regardless.

If it sounds like I'm reviewing Diesel the actor, and not XXX the movie, it's because there's not a huge difference between them. But before returning to old Vin, let me at least say something glowingly about the movie. They have managed to reinvent a formula that is very tired at this point. It's not a complete redefinition, but a smartly updated one. Our eponymous protagonist, instead of being a highly trained spy, lives an underground existence, pulling bigger and bigger physical stunts for the adrenaline rush and a kind of renown amongst those of his type.

A government spying agency is having difficulties adapting to a changing world. The old 007-style of infiltration no longer produces results. Samuel L. Jackson blackmails XXX to take up a case in Prague, and manipulates him to actually enjoy and/or care about what he's doing. Nevermind that he is supposed to represent the NSA, an agency that has no business having field agents of any sort. The whole part of the movie relating to any part of NSA beyond Jackson are a waste, being a wafer-thin agenda of ineptitude.

But why am I bringing up plot? Plot almost doesn't matter in a movie like this. Diesel takes over with a bold on-screen personality and grabs onto us with his teeth and doesn't let go. He is believable, and not just in the cool-dude-who-can-kick-ass department. There is a subtlety to his performance where we see other emotions cross through. I was quite pleasantly surprised to see the glimpses into something behind the eyes, barely covered by the macho persona. Vin Diesel is more than a character projected on the screen - he can actually act. I'm hoping we can see him in something that's a bit more of a stretch (much as I say for Jim Carrey as well - they both are capitalizing too much on their more marketable qualities).

I'll refrain from going into the other actors, the plotline in Prague, the endless succession of stunt adaptations - some reasonable for the circumstances, others pushing credibility. It's the nature of these movies to be larger than life, presenting scenes that should astound the audience. XXX walks the border of what they can get away with without alienating the audience. They probably even cross it, but we are very much led to expect it. We can't count off too much for it.

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