— Xander Cage, handily summing up the premise of the movie.
xXx (spoken as "Triple X") is a 2002 action film starring Vin Diesel, who stars as the rebellious Genius Bruiser Xander Cage, a fugitive stuntman pressed into service by the NSA chief Samuel L. Jackson. What follows is a series of action-movie-setting "tests" of Xander to see if he is ready for the mission for which he had been recruited: the infiltration of anarchistic terrorist group "Anarchy 99". The leaders of this group are former KGB agents, trained to sniff out American spies, which means that this mission vast majority of regular, less x-treme NSA agents have been deemed unfit.The film has at its core the subversion or outright rejection of many of the Tuxedo and Martini tropes (for better or worse), and an extended sequence at the beginning (where a tux-clad NSA agent completely fails at his mission and gets killed at a heavy metal concert) is clearly a Take That to James Bond. While financially successful, the EXTREME-ness of the film makes it fall into Totally Radical territory from time to time, and much of what it has to recommend in it the Darker and Edgier front was done later (and, most critics agree, better) by Bond himself in the Casino Royale remake.Still, if you're in the mood for Stuff Blowing Up, "Non-Stop Action Sequences" (as the clearly-paid-for MPAA warning says), plenty of X-Game athlete cameos, and Vin Diesel badass-ery, you might like this.Followed by xXx: State of the Union (known as xXx2: The Next Level outside the US and Canada) which stars Ice Cube as Ex-Navy Seal Darius Stone, who joins the NSA after Xander's apparent death (or at least Vin Diesel's stand-in) and is specifically said to be "tougher and nastier" than Xander. His mission is to stop Secretary of Defense General George Deckert (Willem Dafoe) from overthrowing the U.S. Government.Oh, and if you're wondering about the title, apparently it was so named to make it harder to find on online piracy sites, since they were already flooded with things labeled "XXX". It probably didn't work.
The first film provide examples of:
Abnormal Ammo: Xander gets a modified revolver that shoots interchangeable rounds, ranging from Staged Shooting capsules complete with fake blood to some kind of surveillance bug. Unfortunately, the film ignores the weapon most of the time. It actually backfires on him in one scene, since he's under fire and has the gun stuffed with the complete package. He shoots a radio bullet into a wall before switching to an exploding one.
Artistic License - Law: Xander's stunt at the beginning couldn't trigger the Three Strikes law, as they cannot be three felonies from the same "transaction."note Unless he already has two, but that's not what Gibbons said. Also, they would be state crimes and he wouldn't be sent to Leavenworth (a federal prison). Gibbons was using hyperbole.
Batman Gambit: Gibbons successfully "inspires" Cage in the first film into gathering intelligence on what's beneath Anarchy 99's fortress by telling him there's a sweeper team ready to wipe out everyone there (who Cage assumes to include Yelena). There isn't, but by that point he's interested in Yelena so wants to stay anyway.
Black Leader Guy: Augustus Gibbons is not bald but the rest fits. High-ranking NSA official, prefiguring his future role as Nick Fury.
Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: The villains, who intended to launch a chemical attack against several cities to provoke a world war and cause all order to break down leading to global freedom... somehow. The hero, on the other hand, has almost exactly the same social philosophy without the "killing people" part.
Several X-Games athletes as themselves in the opening sequence.
The German Metal band Rammstein is the band performing in the opening concert scene.
English techno duo Orbital appear as the club D Js in the rave scene.
Chekhov's Gun: When Xander is hanging out with Anarchy 99 in a nightclub, he chastises one of them for smoking, saying "you know those things will kill you." The man meets his end when he gets targeted by a heat seeking round that locked onto his cigarette.
Combat Pragmatist: Yorgi tries to just shoot the protagonists, but the room exploded.
Comically Missing the Point: A deliberate in-universe example. When a fully-geared SWAT team smashes through his windows during a party, Xander puts his hands up and quips "Alright, alright, I'll turn the music down!"
Cool Car: A'67 Pontiac GTO, stuffed with gadgets and weaponry. Stealing cool cars is also Anarchy 99's main business; there's a room full of them early in the film.
Cool People Rebel Against Authority: The movie starts with Xander stealing a State Senator's car and plunging it off a bridge to protest his stance on violent music and video games. He also refuses to Sell Out by having a video game made based on himself. His boss later exploits this trope by ordering him to return home, knowing that he would defy orders and continue his mission.
Diegetic Switch: The movie opens with a Bond Expy being chased through back alleys to the sounds of Rammstein - Feuer Frei. He later stumbles into an actual Rammstein concert, where he is murdered.
Diner Brawl: Xander Cage is abducted from his home by government agents, and wakes up the next day in a busy road diner. Shortly after there's a stick-up by two armed men, but Cage easily dispatches both of them, even brazenly walking into the line of fire of the second gunman before taking his weapon. Agent Augustus Gibbons reveals himself and states it to be a test which Cage passed, but asks how he knew. Cage points out all the increasingly unlikely discrepancies he noticed before the hold-up; he can believe that the first gunman was using a cop-issue Beretta and even that the second gunman would be all dressed up and reading a financial newspaper for a day when the stock market's closed, but they blew it with the waitress. Because his aunt was one, he knows that no career waitress would come to work in high heels because it would just cause blisters, so he realized the whole thing was fake and the guns only had blanks.
Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Even though the movie ultimately portrays the anarchists as evil and wrong, their hedonistic lifestyle is pretty damn awesome. Show of hands, who wouldn't want to party all night in a castle, doing whatever you want and not having to worry about being in the office in the morning?
Although they get punished at the end what sorts of turns it into the general Den of Iniquity. Especially given that Xander also knows how to party while lacking the 'evil' or even 'criminal' part.
Dunking The Bomb: It's revealed that the villain's bioweapon breaks down in deep water. So, in the climatic scene, with the first rocket about to launch and wipe out Prague, Xander takes the rocket, flips it upside down, shouts out a catchprase, and bails out. The upside down rocket pushes the entire sub deep into the river where everything explodes.
Dystopia Justifies the Means: The villain wants to create a world of anarchy through chemical terrorist attacks on 10 major cities to dismantle all nation-states and their political order, out of revenge for himself and his comrades after being forgotten as soldiers after the Chechen War.
Every Car Is a Pinto: Check out the Corvette... it totally explodes before hitting the ground. Yorgi's boat, too. And the cars of the Colombians move this into the Made of Explodium area, even then the Colombian army doesn't use rockets.
Evil Versus Evil: Invoked and discussed by Gibbons by way of explaining his reasoning for recruiting criminals, although it's actually more Black and Grey Morality in that the proper villains are far more evil than Xander, who's more of a low level underground figure who never sets out to hurt anyone directly. The only crime we see him commit onscreen is stealing and crashing the car of a zealous Moral Guardianpolitican.
Gibbons: Do we drop another mouse into the snake pit, or do we send our own snake and let him crawl in?
Evil Versus Oblivion: Inverted. Xander tells the agent he works for "when you hire somebody to save the world, make sure they like the world the way it is."
Foreshadowing: In his introduction scene, Yorgi, upon learning that his men lost the agent, he exclaims 'Zaraza!', what is a common Russian swearword literally meaning 'pestilence'. Later he is revealed to plan the terrorist strike using a biological weapon.
Good Guns, Bad Guns: Justified and inverted. The movie is set in the Czech Republic, which used to be part of the former Soviet Bloc state Czechoslovakia. Xander's allies in the Prague police are therefore armed with Warsaw Pact-derived weapons, while Anarchy 99 uses Western guns.
I Know Mortal Kombat: Xander is apparently so good at weapons from his First Person Shooter experience.
On the other hand, he doesn't seem to understand the concept of a safety. Perhaps that's why he was given a revolver?
Improbable Aiming Skills: Oddly averted. The assassin in the infamous Take That has an incredibly difficult task - hit someone in the middle of a mosh pit several dozen yards away with a handgun. The assassin selects a scoped, laser-sight assisted gun, assumes a prone position, rests the handgun on a stone railing and waits patiently for a clear center-mass shot.
Not with the Safety on, You Won't: As mooks rush in on Xander and Yelena, Xander tries to fire his assault weapon, but nothing happens. He gets out of the way and lets Yelena handle the henchmen, before she goes up to Xander and tells him that he needs to take the safety off.
Oh, Crap: The giant henchman's face when he sees Cage holding the detonator to a bomb on the bike he is riding.
Outrun the Fireball: Avalanche actually, but the effect is the same, and it still requires defying the laws of physics to pull off.
Quiet Cry for Help: The waitress in the diner offers Xander a cup of coffee. When asked about her shaking hands, she says she's okay, but when Xander picks up the cup of coffee, "911" is written on the napkin.
Reality Is Unrealistic: Destroying nerve gas by dipping it in water seems like a typical action movie plot device... but the best way of destroying organophosphate-based nerve agents is to sink them in a large body of running water.
Refuge in Audacity: By using some over the top biker-looking guy that would never make it through spy training, no bad guy will ever believe he is a spy, at least at first.
Sherlock Scan: Xander, in the cafe. To wit, his suspicion was raised when he spotted a man reading the business section of the paper and dressed like he was on his way to Wall Street, on a Sunday. Then he noticed the supposed robbers were using guns you'd see feds using, as opposed to the cheap stuff small time crooks would be more likely to own. But what really tipped him off was the waitress, who was wearing shoes which would have ruined her feet after standing in them for an 8-hour shift.
Shout-Out: Triple X was the codename of a Russian secret agent, Bond's opposite number, in The Spy Who Loved Me. It was actually the Bond Girl, but there is a bit of misdirection at the start when we are led to believe it is her lover (who turns out to be an assassin gunning for Bond).
Spoof Aesop: Xander Cage steals the car of an anti-free speech senator named Dick. He then drives the car off a bridge and base jumps from the car. On the way down, he delivers the line "And the moral of the story is 'Don't be a dick, Dick!'"
Cage brags about being untouchable in the beginning of the film. The CIA team barges in right on the dot.
Yorgi telling Cage to learn how to shoot, right before the fatal volley hits him.
Truth in Television: The best Special Operations forces and spies tend to be people who don't fit the traditional image of the military or spies, sometimes criminals. Also, there have been several celebrities who have worked as intelligence agents after becoming famous. Between the two, the movie got more right than one might expect.
Intelligence agencies and police often use people who would blend into the group they infiltrate. With no real ties to the agency, there is no danger of blowing the cover, because there is no cover to start with. Nicely shown in the scene when Yorgi meets Xander who is accepted after being recognized as a notorious adrenaline junkie.
Xander: Is she for real? Sweetheart, is there anything else you need to do? Let us big boys have a conversation?
Yelena: "Conversation", a word with four syllables. Do you want some ice before your brain overheats?
Xander: Ice? Yes, you could chisel some off your heart — if you can find it.
Wardrobe Flaw Of Characterization: The title character makes a point of commenting on Milon Sova's bad suit, described as "motel drapes". Later on, we see Sova wearing a better suit, because he's sold information on Xander to the Big Bad - "My government doesn't pay as well as Yorgi."
Weaponized Car: The Pontiac GTO that Xander gets loaded with tons of different high-power weapons. Ultimately, however, this trope is deconstructed when the car proves useless against AHAB, as destroying it will only cause the chemical bomb within it to detonate.
You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Lampshaded by Yorgi when he wipes out the team who created Ahab with their own missiles, telling Yelena that they are a liability now.
You Talk Too Much: When Xander Cage is being briefed in Prague by a snarky agent on the high-tech weapons they'll be giving him, Xander asks him "You ever get punched in the face for talking too much?"